Easter in the Catholic World

Easter, together with Christmas, is one of the most important Catholic festivities. During the Easter Holy Week, Catholics celebrate Jesus Christ’s Death and Resurrection. It is celebrated during the first Spring full-moon Sunday, and therefore its date changes every year.

The Holy Week is full of traditional representations all over Italy and the Catholic World: from Holy Thursday (when the Last Supper is celebrated) till the Angel’s Monday, every region, and even every city, has its own religious events commemorating Jesus`s last week on Earth.

Catholic Easter Celebrations in Italy

Catholic Easter Celebrations in Italy

Festive events start the previous Sunday, when the Catholics remind Palm Sunday: it is a moment of great joy as they are celebrating Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem, where He was greeted as the Messiah. At Palm Sunday, believers exchange blessed Palm or Olive branches, to be kept in their houses for the whole years.

On Holy Thursday, the Catholics celebrate Jesus`s last supper, by taking their Holy Communion and reproducing the foot washing ceremony (that is, Jesus washing the Apostles’ feet as sign of humility).

The Holy Friday is a deep mourning day, which is commemorated fasting and taking part in one of the million torchlight Via Crucis processions. A traditional Via Crucis is composed of 14 “stations”, each of them representing a passage in Jesus’s Passion, his way to the Calvary while carrying his own Cross, and his crucifixion. In Rome, the Pope himself celebrates a Via Crucis, around the Colosseum and through the magnificent ruins of Ancient Rome.

On Holy Saturday, at Midnight, bells start ringing joyfully, announcing Jesus`s Resurrection.

Easter Celebrations at the Colosseum

Easter Celebrations at the Colosseum

On Easter Day, Believers express their joy and faith attending the Mass and celebrating with their families: a traditional Eastern meal includes painted boiled eggs, lamb, salami, some wonderful traditional cakes like colomba (you can find it at Cost Plus) and Pastiera (you can order one at some Italian bakeries, and it is definitely worth the money!!!) and, of course, an incredible amount of huge chocolate eggs with surprise gifts inside!

Chocolate Eggs for the kids!

Chocolate Eggs for the kids!

On Angel’s Monday, Italian families are used to going picnic in the country with friends, celebrating the arrival of the Spring and the rebirth of new life!

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Starting All Over Again – Pregnant and Moving to the USA – A Four Part Series


I found out that I was pregnant in the same week that my husband found out he got a travel grant (Rubicon; NWO) from the Netherlands. This is a grant which allows you to perform research and gain experience at a foreign research institute (in his case: Stanford University) that is specialized in your field of study.

I had mixed emotions about both. Yes, I really wanted to have a child but I also wanted my family close during the delivery (at home instead of in a hospital) and of course also in the following months / years. At the same time I was very proud of my husband. He achieved to get the grant, he is successful at his job and he knows what he wants career wise. I just really wished it wasn’t a grant for working in a foreign country!

Most of the negative emotions originated from fear. I’m not really comfortable around needles, blood, tubes etc. When I get confronted with those things I tend to faint. You might think you run into these in the Netherlands too. Yes, that’s correct but there you have the possibility to deliver your baby at home. Which I prefer over labor in a hospital where there’s a good chance you might run into a needle or two.

And then I’m not even talking about a fear a lot of humans have; the unknown. What can you expect of living in another country?IMG_8825

The Move

In 2010 we went on a holiday to Coastal California and drove the Pacific Coastal Highway from San Francisco to LA. We really loved this part of the country and its nature. The additional advantages of working at Stanford for my husband’s career made us decide to go for it.

The six months before our big move were quite hectic because of the appointments I had with the midwives, the ultrasounds, preparing the home for rental and working at our jobs and on top of that we also had to plan our wedding (finally after 12 years..). This combined with my “morning” sickness (which I experienced all day) took a lot of my energy.

We eventually moved to the Bay area when I was 23 weeks pregnant. By then I already had had three sonograms in the Netherlands; at 8/9 weeks just to check if you are pregnant, at 12 weeks to set your due date and at 20 weeks for the medical examination and the determination of the gender of the baby.

If I would have stayed in the Netherlands and no problems would occur there would only follow some appointments with the midwives to check blood pressure, heartbeat of the baby and my weight, and finally hopefully home birth. In the USA I had to start all over again…

Stephanie Segeren


Stephanie Segeren moved here in September of 2014 from the Netherlands. In January 2015 she gave birth to a brand-new American citizen.  For the time being she has decided to be a stay at home mom.  Stephanie has a lot of hobbies which are mostly creative:  Interior decorating, baking cakes and take photographs (currently only of her baby of course).

Next Thursday, Stephanie will go over her adventures with insurance and the medical system!


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Top 5 Places You Need to Visit in the US!

While you are here don’t forget to advantage of all the sightseeing the US has to offer. You will find traveling around the US is a bit like traveling around Europe in the sense that customs, dialect, food and music can change drastically from state to state.  We lack the train system that makes traveling Europe so easy, but there are a lot of resources to help make a trip easy and fun.

The first recorded road trip took place in Germany in 1888, and the first recorded in the US was from San Francisco to New York in 1903.   Ask any kid who grew up in America and they can tell you about a family road trip.  Road trips are big here.

There is an abundance of beautiful and interesting places to visit in the 3.806 million sq miles or 9.857 million km² that make up the United States.  I have been lucky enough to visit 47 of the 50 states and these are the five places that immediately stand out to me as places I’d recommend.   In no order:

Yellowstone National Park –  Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

Grand Prismatic Spring.

Grand Prismatic Spring.

Yellowstone is a magical place.  Things are happening to the Earth in Yellowstone that you can’t find anywhere else.  The ground is bubbling, ponds look like rainbows and water shoots 120 – 180 feet into the air every hour and a half.  As a kid I thought of this place as another planet.  There is so much to do and see, here is a link that does a good job breaking it down.

Washington, D.C.

Jefferson Memorial with cherry blossoms.

Jefferson Memorial with cherry blossoms.

The capital of our nation and most famous for where the president lives, Washington, D.C. is a place of great lawns, monuments and museums.  My husband grew up here so I have been to visit many, many times.  I have two favorite activities and they both cost nothing. The first is to wander around the National Mall.  This is where you find the reflecting pools, monuments and gardens/lawns.   The second is to visit any of the 16 Smithsonian museums and galleries.

You can fill several days just walking around and going in and out of famous museums, here is a link that has recommendations.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

For me the Grand Canyon didn’t seem like that big of a deal until I got there.  It is only then, that I understood how grand it actually was.  It is not possible to imagine the scope until you are standing at the edge of it.   I have been to several different locations via car and foot.  I also had the amazing opportunity to tour the canyon in a helicopter.    It is pricey, but I would highly recommend it.  I can’t give a tour company recommendation, but there are a lot to choose from depending on where you want to depart from.  A simple Google search will get you started.  US News does a good job of providing details on the best time to go and the top attractions.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans French Quarter. Photo from Huffington Post.

New Orleans French Quarter. Photo from Huffington Post.

New Orleans is most appreciated once you understand it’s history and Creole culture.  The City;s diverse heritages are what it make it unique. Wandering around the City is a treat for your eyes and ears.   The birthplace of jazz, you can’t go far without hearing live music or seeing something representative of a carnival.  At night is when the things really start to get interesting so be prepared to stay up late!  Here are some tips.

Mighty 5, Utah

Devils Garden in Arches National Park.  Photo from Utah.com

Devils Garden in Arches National Park. Photo from Utah.com

My fifth place is a tie between five national parks in Utah.  They are all hiking and nature heaven.  I think the Mighty 5 website describes it best:  A trip to The Mighty 5 means watching the sunrise over the towering depths of Canyonlands National Park, then watching the sunset through an impossibly delicate rock bow in Arches National Park. It means standing nose-to-nose with ancient petroglyphs in Capitol Reef National Park, then lying on your back as a meteor shower streaks across the Milky Way. It means gazing down at coral-hued rock hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park, then gazing upward at the steep walls of a slot canyon in Zion National Park. It means hiking, river rafting, biking, picnicking, walking, mule riding, exploring and stargazing.

Picture from pixshark.com

Picture from pixshark.com

There is an abundance of sites and resources for must see places in the US.  A road trip is just one way to do it.  You can, of course, fly, take a bus and there are a few trains. Regardless, almost every top 10 list has a place on the California coast as a must visit. Take advantage of living in this gorgeous state and go exploring!

Forbes has a great list of top American road trips, two of the desintations are in CA.   Buzzfeed has in impressive list of 29 Surreal Places In America You Need To Visit Before You Die, four of them are in Ca.   Get started by checking out Lifehiker’s How To Plan The Perfect Road Trip.

Tell me about your favorite place to visit!

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Nine Lives Foundation: Animal Lovers wanted!

Nine Lives Foundation in Redwood City is a no-kill cat shelter, but take a peek inside, and it’s so much more. Nine Lives regularly houses 300-400 cats in a small warehouse near 101. Kitties have been rescued from the surrounding communities, but also come to the shelter from as far as the central valley, and even occasionally, out-of state. Started 10 years ago, by veterinarian Monica Rudiger, Nine Lives provides a special home for cats and volunteers alike.

I sat down recently with long-time volunteer Angela, here’s how she got involved:

After a successful career in finance, changes to her health prompted a change in her lifestyle. With a love of furry felines, and suddenly more free time, Angela initially volunteered to take photos of the cats and update the website. Now eight years later, they have discovered her other skills, and put her to work organizing events large and small, managing their facebook page, coordinating adoptions, training volunteers and more. Angela puts in more time than most, and it’s clear that she is an invaluable asset to the shelter. Angela is dedicated to finding forever homes for all of the shelters kitties, and works hard to ensure that the shelter runs smoothly, whether than involves washing blankets, sterilizing litter boxes, or organizing a gala dinner to raise funds. Of course, along the way she’s taken a few special kitties home with her as well.

Nine Lives Collage

A few fun furry feline facts:

  • In ten years, the shelter has given more than 8,000 cats a second chance at life.
  • Every morning volunteers wash/sanitize each and every cat bed, litter box and food bowl.
  • $6,000 is spent on litter every month.
  • The Nine Lives Foundation does not receive funding from any local, city, state or government agency or major corporation. They rely solely on private donations, and adoption fees to fund the shelter.

If you love cats and kittens, Nine Lives has a way for you to get involved. Are you are looking to adopt a furry friend for your new home in California? Always wanted to bottle feed and foster a litter of kittens?  Are you unable to work, but would like to use skills to make a difference in the community?


Nine Lives is open for adoptions 7 days a week from noon. Cats and kittens are housed at the main location, although kittens under 4 months old are usually housed in local foster homes, to protect their delicate immune systems. Some of the available cats can be viewed online, but we recommend a visit to the shelter as new cats arrive daily.


Spring is coming which means it’s kitten season. Nine lives always needs volunteers to provide temporary homes to orphaned kittens, and moms with litters of kittens. Homes are needed for as little as 1-2 weeks or as long as 7-8 weeks depending upon the age of the kittens. Most supplies, such as a large crate, food, nursing bottles, formula etc. are provided and Nine Lives also covers all medical care. Older cats may also need to be fostered occasionally due to health conditions, again medical care would be provided. Fostering is a great way to enjoy some kitty cuddles, or introduce children to pet ownership, without making the long term commitment of adoption.


The center is open 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Volunteers are needed to assist with laundry, dish washing, cat socialization, and adoption counselling, baking/cooking for fundraisers, as well as marketing/advertising, clerical help, and photography. If you’re an animal lover and you’d like to put your skills to a good use, contact Nine Lives at ninelivesfoundation@gmail.com. Most volunteers will help out 2-3 hours per week. Customer service and technical/database skill are especially needed, along with volunteers who speak a second language. Orientation and training is provided for all volunteers.

Other ways to make a difference:  

Do you shop on amazon? Sign up for Amazon Smile, and a percentage of your purchase will automatically be donated to Nine Lives Foundation.

Eat (or take-out) at California Pizza Kitchen on 24 March 2015, and 20% of your purchase will be donated to Nine Lives Foundation. (Hillsdale Mall, Stanford Shopping Center, and other locations)

For more information:

3016 Rolison Road, Redwood City, CA, 94063
(tel) 650-368-1365 or (fax) 650-368-1060
Email: ninelivesfoundation@gmail.com

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6 Weird things we had to adjust to during our first year in the Silicon Valley

Looking back at my first 18 months in Silicon Valley, here are a few things which had an incredible impact on our life-style. It actually took a while to figure out what they were, but I can now make an (almost) complete list of life-changing details.

  • California way of life: there a few common idioms which, in my opinion, very well exemplify the philosophy of life in California. They are:
    1. Better safe than sorry: precautions are never enough, in California! Whether are we talking of riding a bicycle, preventing an epidemic or simply taking children to a playground, there is no limit to alertness and prevention! Everything may potentially be dangerous and Californians will be happy to let you know about it!
    2. Pledge of allegiance: all kids, teachers and citizens in the USA, from kindergarten to 8th grade, are expected to pledge their allegiance to the American Flag, every morning before school! As far as I know, there is no other western democratic government which requires this (but I may be wrong!) There are many interpretations for this behavior, some of them positive, some others not so positive. But I think that all of them confirm the basic purpose to create a common land where hundreds of different cultures coexist.
    3. Ask what you can do for America, not what America can do for you: this concept matches with the previous one. The American citizens are deeply committed to their social duties: they understand the importance of being a good citizen and the great impact our own behavior can have on the whole society.

      Pledge of Allegiance in American Classroom

      Pledge of Allegiance in American Classroom

  • Daily schedule: In Silicon Valley everything starts (and ends) approximately 2-hour earlier than in my Italy: rush hour is from 5 am (???) till 9 am; lunch time is from 11:30 am (we haven’t even finished breakfast by that time! 😀 ): some restaurants close at 1:30; dinner time is from 5:30 (snack time – merenda, in Italy): some restaurants close at 9 pm, exactly when most of us Europeans start eating! The result was that, during the first months in California, I ate twice: at the American time and at the Italian time!!! And yes, I did put on a lot of weight!!
  • Summer: There is nothing like a southern-European summer in Silicon Valley: no still time, no hot lazy days, no sunbathing and swimming at the beach, no warm nights strolling and dancing! Nothing like this is possible in Silicon Valley. California’s perennial spring keeps people active: Summer in Silicon Valley is as busy a season as any other: lots of activities and events to attend; lots of work to do; even elementary schools offer year-round programs!
  • Festivities: American national holidays are cultural holidays, dedicated to men (and women?) who helped creating the American dream. For an Italian and other European citizens, celebrating President’s Day or Veteran’s Day, or even MLK Day is something pretty unusual, as we are used to theoretically dedicating the Holy Day to a holy something.
  • Driving: Well, yes, that’s an issue!! In my country, red lights (and road rules in general) are almost a simple suggestion, sort of ‘you’d better stop now!’And so are pedestrian crossings: you must be very smart to cross the road without losing your life!! All this keeps our senses extremely active!! Ok, I’m kidding, but reality is that driving in Silicon Valley is a very different thing. Everything is very strictly regulated, and tickets are amazingly high! California drivers are very respectful, and not prepared for unexpected actions. The consequence is that they get easily scared, or simply disappointed, and honk for apparently no reason!
  • Emailing: American emails always start with a thank-you-for-something sentence. No matter what, there is always a thank-you-for-something incipient! I’m not used to it and, must admit, sometimes I have a serious problem in making up something!! But I’m learning! Also, Americans are very busy and practical people. If they have nothing important to say, they just do not respond to your email. Not immediately, at least. This is an easy way to tell you that they are not interested, or simply that there is nothing important to say about it. The result is less time spent in writing nonsense and less time spent in reading nonsense! Great! But I’m still waiting for some responses…!

What challenges have you faced? What strange adjustments to your daily life have you made, so fit into California life?

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