by Jessica on October 14, 2016

in Annabelle,Family,Kids and Art,Levi,Photography,Sons

Everyone was all smiles by the time we reached Florence.  We dropped off Money Penny at a garage and then taxied over to our apartment.  It was dreamy.  I mean, as a mom, I will say that this apartment was dreamy.  It included a washer and dryer, a kitchen (not that I wanted to cook but I was starting to get sick of eating out for every meal), and we had our own bedrooms, which meant I didn’t have to fall asleep to the sounds of bickering children.  Instead, I fell asleep to the muffled sounds of bickering children.  Like I said, this place was dreamy.


Our first stop was at a cafe dedicated to Dante.  In college, I had studied Italian and aspired to read Dante’s Inferno in Italian.  Well, that never happened . . . but I do still appreciate Dante’s art and story, and it was pretty cool to see medieval themed Florentine decor.


I have to be honest.  I have no idea who this guy is.  We saw the statue and kept moving, and I am pretty sure we walked by this statue pretty frequently and he usually had a pigeon sitting on top of his head.


This dude right here was sitting on a large turtle; I love art but I honestly cannot explain what the symbolism of the man riding the tortoise was . . .


This statue was right outside of one of the art museums (it may have been the Uffizi)  and we walked by it everyday in Florence.  And every time, I shuddered.


One of the tourist draws in Florence is Ponte Vecchio.  There are little shops along this bridge and almost all of the shops sell jewelry.  I like jewelry but it was more interesting to people watch when we walked across.  We spent about 3 minutes at this bridge._dsc1763


What I really loved about Florence and all of the cities was all of the walking.  Everywhere we walk in the cities, there is always something different to see.  In Florence there were so many beautiful views of the city.


Annabelle is always one of my favorite sites to see.


And Levi too . . .


Annabelle enjoyed eyeing the jewelry . . . Matt and I were like, um, you can get ideas for when we go shopping at the Leather Market (which was more in her 9 year old budget).


And what do you know but there was this awesome display in front of the Leica store.  It must be a sign.  I mean, literally it was a sign.   But it could also be “a sign” that I should consider investing in a Leica.   Or, I could send my children to college . . . you know.  Priorities and all.




These two . . .




Annabelle and I loved getting to peak in all of the designer store fronts in both Florence and in Rome.   We collected lots of pictures of displays on my cell phone so she’d have some inspiration for school clothes shopping at Target.



I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough to do it but I have this idea of myself riding around a European city, like a Florence or some romantic place without too much traffic (does that exist) on a motorcycle or Vespa.  I’d really love to ride a Vespa through a low traffic and perfectly safe and beautiful city.  I may have to just keep the fantasy.


We also walked over to see Giotto’s tower though we didn’t brave the tour up to the top.



More window shopping . . .









Oh Florence.  How I love thee.  Shoes and handbags on every corner.


More statues with pigeons on top.



I really can’t remember who this guy is.  I will say that I admire the sculptors who worked on the statues throughout Florence and in the museums.  The amount of detail that is carved into the marble is impressive._dsc1868

This guy was having a bad day._dsc1885

And like the American tourist I am, I photographed lots of Italian signs with Italian words because it’s cool.


We also visited Museo Galileo and we got to see lots of cool science as well as Galileo’s preserved finger that was cut off when he refused to say that the sun did not revolve around the earth.  One of our favorite displays in this museum was the globe room.






And Florence was owned by the Medicis at one point and this is a portrait bust of one of the Medici’s.


I can’t remember what this photo of Annabelle was all about but I think we were in the museum locker room.


And then we walked a bunch more and I took photos all over . . .



















On one of our last nights in Florence, Matt asked us to walk across town to a hill overlooking the town.  Oh ma don!  It was quite a walk.  All uphill.   Serious butt workout.



Here’s Annabelle posing for a picture as we made our way up a staircase on the hillside.


There were street vendors and artists wherever we went in Florence.


But Matt was right.  The view from the top of the hill was pretty good.












Being that my day job is taking photos of people, I was fascinated with the hand placement in paintings and sculptures.  The top of the hand resting against the hip was “the pose” of the male nobility in Renaissance art.  Not that I’m making fun.  Look at us today with our hands on our hips.  Chicken dinner.






We walked through a large Italian government ceremony.  Pretty sure it had to do with World War II and the Holocaust.


And we did see David.  Levi was super offended that his private parts were showing.  His seven year old point of view was upset that the artist didn’t give the guy some coverage.  We tried to explain that it’s art but he still wasn’t having it.


Me?  I wanted to photograph David from every angle.   Again, Matt and I were impressed with all the details in the veins of the limbs and hands that Michelangelo carved into the statue.






I haven’t showed Levi the pictures of David.  I think we’ll wait until he’s 40.




The Uffizi also held many other sculptures.



Every now and again, I will let someone take my photo.  This is why I prefer to hold the camera and shoot . . . I hate being photographed.



And then it was off to Cinque Terre . . .



Mastering Manual

by Jessica on October 13, 2016

in Community,Photography

As part of my efforts to share my love for photography with others, I am now offering photography workshops as well as an online forum for new photographers to visit and learn.

My photography program is called Mastering Manual and the educational website is available at http://www.masteringmanual.com


Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to learn more about current class offerings.  I can be reached at jessicamonte@jessicamonte.com



It was an amazing trip.  And I took so many photos I needed to put some distance between the images and myself to try and narrow it down.  And still . . . so many photos.  I feel biased to the photos because I’m too sentimental about them.  I can’t be objective to say whether or not they are any good.  I tried to photograph all the parts of this story as it unfolded, but there was so much.  It was a sensory overload and yet is was a welcome gourmet for my eyes and spirit.  I fell in love in Italy with Italy.  Since we returned home I have purchased a cappuccino machine and I listen to Italian music . . . I miss it so much.  But I am hopeful that some day I will get the chance to make another hop across the ocean and go back.  It is another home away from home.  I could go on and on but of course I’m gushing.


Wherever we travel I always appreciate the street art.  Graffiti has its good and its bad.  Some is beautiful; some not so much, but all the cities we’ve travelled to have graffiti artists.  Annabelle was more than eager to post with her oversized aviator glasses.  Age 9.  My girl.


We carried water wherever we went.  It was sooooo hot.  We started buying water by the liter and just guzzled it as we walked through the cities.



Gelato.  I could have a love affair with gelato. Ah, it reminds me of childhood and falling in love, all in a tiny cup.











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Around every corner there was something else to see in Rome.  I never felt bored.  Not for a second.

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We rode a motorized four person bicycle.  So fun!  Even when we crashed!  And I swear that it wasn’t my fault   . . .

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And before we knew it we were in a BMW station wagon that we nicknamed Money Penny because of her British accent.  She served us well.  We navigated out of Rome and into the countryside.  Tuscany was waiting . . .

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In Tuscany, Matt found a pool table and spent many an hour there clacking the heck out of the table.  We attempted to teach a German couple how to play . . . they preferred the foosball table.  I listened to loud Italian opera and danced.

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In Tuscany we took a cooking class and learned to make homemade pasta and ravioli.  Annabelle was a natural in the kitchen.  Me . . . I could get the hang of it if I wanted to.  I just don’t have the patience to stand and wait for things to happen . . . I’m better at chopping and prepping and making things happen.  Not a good waiter.  Patience is not my strong suit.


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And before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head off on our next adventure . . . Florence.  More photos to come.



The kids and I hiked at Beaverdam Reservoir today. I took a few pictures. I love this beautiful natural resource that is right in our backyard here in Brambleton. I would love to see the community come together to help take care of it and keep it clean. Our clean up date is set for April 24th and this a family friendly event. One Love Loudoun has kindly posted the event at https://www.facebook.com/events/183463872039264/

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Levi Earned His White Belt

by Jessica on April 2, 2016

in Levi,Parenting,Photography

Levi recently signed up at CJR Martial Arts in Ashburn.  He was so very excited to earn his white belt today.

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Future Trillionaire: Boy’s Fashion

by Jessica 23 February 2016 Levi

Recently a hip new children’s fashion designer called Future Trillionaire reached out to me to review their boy’s clothing brand that focuses on shirts and matching ties and bow ties.  Their catch phrase is “Wouldn’t it are great if there was a one-stop shop that will have them camera ready in a jiffy?”  As a […]

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Interview with Elisabetta Canalis

by Jessica 8 September 2015 Health

Recently I had a chance to talk with Elisabetta Canalis, Italian actress and model, best known in the U.S. for being on the covers of Vogue and Vanity Fair, as well as a performer on Dancing with the Stars. At eight o’clock eastern time this past Wednesday, Elisabetta called so that we could talk about […]

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Trip to the Quarry

by Jessica 22 July 2015 Annabelle

  We made it to the quarry!   A few weeks ago when Levi and I started his rock collection, we noticed that on the way to pick up Annabelle from camp that we passed a large stone quarry that had a pretty driveway and entrance.  It looked friendly from the road, so I thought […]

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Berry Picking

by Jessica 16 July 2015 Annabelle

Over the weekend we drove out to Purcellville to Crooked Run Orchard.   We wanted to do something outside and since it looked like it might rain we thought berry picking would be perfect.  Strawberries were just out of season but gooseberries were ripe and ready for picking.   I brought along my camera because […]

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Gardening with Kids

by Jessica 8 July 2015 Annabelle

Last week we had an open afternoon with nothing to do.  So we turned to our cork pin board and pulled down the stack of activities we’d written on index cards.  When Annabelle pulled “Herb gardening,” there was a little bit of groaning from both kids, but I pressed on and reminded them, “You both […]

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