My greatest project

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

Many of you who have followed ‘next to nicx’ over the years have probably noticed that it’s not plastered with my photograph. In fact, I’ve actively avoided putting my face on the blog as I’ve rather liked hiding behind my creations. I’ve loved letting them do the talking and showing off, particularly as I’m not comfortable in front of a camera and have tended to prefer being behind it. I am something of an introvert.

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

I thought that if my ‘face’ didn’t match what you thought it would look like, you’d be disappointed. A little like when someone creates a movie adaption of a book you love and they put what you feel is entirely the wrong actor in the part. The book is forever tainted by the awful actor and the mental image you had created is slightly overwritten.

I didn’t feel like the face of this blog. I was pregnant and fat and I’m still not back to my ideal shape. I’m sleep deprived, tired and have struggled with an iron deficiency. I’ve used all these as my excuses for leaving my face off the blog and to keep hiding in relative obscurity.

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

But all that comfortable anonymity has recently been stripped away. I was asked to complete a project (rather a splediferous one I can share with you in August) and they wanted to put my photo on it. After the subsequent panic attack, I realised that I can no longer hide. And whilst I’ve no plans of plastering my face over every post, I probably do need to share a little more than I have been.

Thankfully I’ve recently become friends with lovely and insanely talented Hayley Hay. She’s amazing! Hayley came to my rescue and took some really great photos of the Munchkin and I. Many more than was needed for my project. And so I’ve decided to share some of them with you and to say;

“Hello, this is me. Nice to meet you”.

As well as; “Check out my greatest project of all time! Isn’t she adorable?!”

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

Because Munchkin is by far and away, my greatest creation/ project/ job.

She is a handful. Just like her father and I, she knows her own mind and makes sure we know it too. She is also gentle, generous and kind. I’m adoring the personality that is emerging every day and seeing just how excited she gets as she learns something new. Just last week she learned how to clap her hands and so clapped proudly whilst saying “Yaaaaay” for about a day and a half. She clapped even whilst crying!

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

I’m a firm believer in “Do it once. Do it well”. And I’m doing my utmost to do it well with Munchkin. We have our good and bad days, and I’m learning to go with the flow a lot more. My perfectionist self has had to learn to be happy with ‘Almost perfect’ and more often with ‘Good enough’. It has been a challenge.

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

Just minutes before we were to start this shoot, my daughter decorated her outfit so badly it had to be changed entirely. And it was washing day. So she end up wearing a t-shirt, baby Converse and spotty tights in this shoot instead of the pretty dress I’d planned. I was a little disappointed. But after seeing the end result, I’m so glad! They show every gorgeous little squishy baby roll and her beautifully chubby belly. She’s thinning out a little now as she’s starting to move around a bit more.

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

This beautiful little one has taken all of my days and a fair number of my nights. Any any spare time I’ve had, I’ve been making but haven’t had time to blog.

It was starting to get to me. I hated seeing the blog stagnant. Even though I told myself it was only ‘maternity leave’, I seriously considered giving up next to nicx. Being an expat and not having easy access to family had meant that I’d not had time alone to work etc. I couldn’t see a way to make it work.

But a couple of my friends and my husband gave me a serious taking to, I’ve decided to keep it going. And I saw a need for a little me time as I’d started to feel like I was losing myself. Consequently, we’ve made some lifestyle adjustments. My husband comes home early a couple of nights so I can get in a swim/ workout and we now have a sitter come to look after Munchkin a couple of half days a week so I can get back to ‘work’. Munchkin has made a new friend, and I’ve finally got time to bake/ blog/ make and create!

It has the added benefit of making me feel a whole heap better and therefore, I’m a much better mother.

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

Good news! This means that the blog is going to get busier than it has been. All those half finished projects are starting to be completed and photographed. And I’ve a whole heap of new ones. So you should start to see a craft/ GF baking blog post every week or so. And I’ve a list of splendiferous things I’ve found whilst wandering around this new world inhabited by little Munchkins, I’ll share a few of those with you too.

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

Thanks for following next to nicx and for being patient all these months!
So see you next week; right now I’ve a tiny skirt and post to finish!



All images in this post are Copyright to Hayley Hay Photography


Slowly re-entering an altered reality


I feel a bit like Alice. I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. I’ve met wonderful characters who have helped, sometimes hindered and oft times made my journey fun or just a little less stressful. Everything in my life is the same and different.  And I am now slowly waking up to reality. But an adjusted reality. A reality that includes a little person who has no respect for sleeping hours or schedules. Like the little white rabbit, I’m always late (which those of you who know me ‘off blog’ understand is enough to give me a conniption!).

The cause of this adjusted reality, she’s perfectly gorgeous. I’m in love.


Nicola and Munchkin by Hayley Hay Photography


Before Munchkin arrived, I was certain that my life would get easier. After 12 days in the early stages of labour I was exhausted and ready for the next part. And after hearing from others who’d been able to do projects in the weeks following the birth of their children, I was certain that the 2/3rds completed projects and blogs I had would get completed and after a week or two my blog would continue. After all, newborns only eat and sleep right?! I’d get all of my projects done and the blog would continue much as it had been *insert unladylike snort here*.


Nicola and Munchkin by Hayley Hay Photography


I should have taken heed to what my pregnant friends who already have children were doing. They were all planning ‘maternity leave’ from their projects and blogs.

Unsurprisingly I was in for quite a bit of a shock. I’ve gone from having many hours alone, to struggling to find enough time to have a shower, let alone finish a tutorial and write a blog. And of an evening I usually resemble a zombie and anything I’ve written makes about as much sense as if it were written by the aforementioned brain-dead one.

So it’s over two months since Munchkins birth and I’m only just making my way back to the blog. The tutorials and templates are on their way. But it’s going a bit slower than I thought.

Thank you to all of you who wrote to ask for the little shoes templates and tutorial. I love that you’re all looking forward to making them! But I have to beg for a little patience. They’ll be done just as soon as I can. Hopefully next week; but don’t hold me to that. The Munchkin may have other plans she’s not informed me about.


All photos of Munchkin and I in this post are by the very talented Hayley Hay from Hayley Hay Photography.

Switzerland’s New Papershop – Ikea


I received an email from Ikea yesterday and immediately made arrangements to go and check out my local store. Why? It’s not like they were handing out free Sczchfgdudnkfdskj’s, and I’m not a huge fan of their disposable furniture. Like with my chocolate, I’m more a ‘one good quality piece rather than a 400 gram block of average stuff’ girl. But I do like their gluten-free cake! And cheap glassware, lighting and teacups for parties.

They do a roaring trade with the expats here. Where else can you go, do a confusingly long, windy lap through a warehouse and walk out the front door with a complete house-full of furniture and appliances?! We do have some pieces bought over the years that I’ve yet to find suitable replacements for, but that’s mainly because second hand and vintage are so insanely expensive here; and as up until recently we’ve not had a car for me to take ‘brocante excursions’ in.

So why was I heading to Ikea with haste?



I went to check out their new Paperstore. I love paper-stores! Switzerland isn’t the best place to buy wrapping paper or stationery. When we arrived here almost 4 years ago it was near on impossible to buy wrapping paper or cards that weren’t bedazzled in some form (usually with glitter AND metallic foiling) and that often cost more than the item you wanted to wrap! Thankfully the situation has changed of late, and whilst still expensive, the range and quality have improved. For example Globus have come so far as to stock limited ranges of letterpress stationery.

So the prospect of cheap wrapping paper and stationery lured me in and I went for an ogle. It’s not earth-shattering. The designs are relatively modern but nothing that you’ve not seen before. I’m looking forward to seeing what direction they take it in and how up to date they keep the ranges. I like the black and white, and brown paper and white ranges but wasn’t overly enamoured with the green, blue or pink options. But it is cheap (eg. 10 gift tags for 1.95 chf) and going by the number of people filling yellow bags with notebooks and gift tags, is quite popular. So if you find yourself having to wrap presents galore, need party favours or have decided that the Sczchfgdudnkfdskj you’ve just bought needs to be wrapped before you take it home, it’s the perfect place to go.



You can find the list of Ikea stores that contain the Papershop range in Switzerland here. The range and prices in Switzerland are shown here.



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In Print…

Inside Out Magazine


I’m really honoured to be included in the latest issue of Inside Out Magazine. Inside Out Magazine was one of my regular reads when I lived in Australia. So to find myself featured in their ’6 blogs to bookmark’ section held even more excitement!


Image via
Image via


I’ve since found out it is now possible to subscribe online to the magazine via Zinio. Why not check them out for a monthly dose of design and interiors goodness?


Image from
Image from


Fabulous finds for Munchkin #1

I’ve spent a fair amount of time browsing the interwebs of late. Looking for inspiration and ideas for Munchkins wardrobe and nursery (we hope to find out what flavour we’re having at the next big scan in a couple of weeks). I’ve found so many fabulous things! I just have to share a few of them with you!

lion handmade coat eco- friendly little goodall coaters europe
handmade animal coats eco friendly coaters little goodalls

I may have tried to convince DM that Munchkin needs one of these gorgeous wool felt coats now…

I failed. I did see his reasoning, but why shouldn’t a 3 month old (in December) have one? I did get a commitment to order one next year though!

I found these beautiful items on the Petit à Petit and family blog. They’re handmade in the United States and each one takes about 15 hours to put together. They’re available in the states from Little Goodall and from Coaters in Europe.

Precious Knit Blankies for Baby- Sheep blankie

From Precious Knit Blankies for Baby, this gorgeous blankie instantly made it’s way onto my ‘todo’ list. I’m going to need a knitting machine if I’ve any chance of getting through them all! Available from Amazon here.


A thousand words. Daniels Duvet cover DIY

Check out this amazing tutorial! I’d thought of using Spoonflower to create bedding. But this is genius! Jen from A Thousand Words traced her sons artwork onto his bedding. She’s created a tutorial here if you’d like to do it too. This is something I hope to use in future. I’ll just have to be patient and wait until Munchkin is old enough to be artistic.

Sarah Trumbauer Papercut artist Birth Announcement

Sarah Trumbauer is a paper cut artist who makes these wonderful creations. I think they’d make splendid baby announcements. You can buy prints of her work on Etsy or she does work on commission. I may have added a custom commission to my future wish list (once I work out just what I’m doing to Munchkins nursery).
There are a ton more wonderful items I’ve stumbled across. I’ll list more of them next week. But now I’ve got to get back to work to finish the tutorial I’ve been trying to put up on the blog for the last few days.


Sunday lunch

How was your weekend lovely ladies and gents?

Mine was wonderful.

On the Saturday I made my husband a big batch of one of his favourite meals. He just loves my spaghetti Bolognese and generally attempts to eat at least 4 servings in one sitting. I use a recipe my mother taught me and let it slow cook for at least 4 hours.

Then we had a glorious Sunday with friends. I cooked and baked properly for the first time in months. It was fabulous!

We had delicious artisanal British cheeses from my favourite British cheese supplier in Zurich to start. Followed by crispy skinned, roast pork belly, roast vegetables (parsnip, purple carrots, potatoes, cherry vine tomatoes and garlic), a red wine and rosemary gravy, decadent garlic mashed potatoes (they contained double cream and butter) and finished the meal off with a gluten free roasted strawberry & ginger, baked ricotta cheesecake.

Sunday Lunch
Sunday Lunch
Sunday Lunch
Sunday Lunch

I think I can honestly say I’ve got my appetite and much of my energy back. Hurray!

Though I was flagging pretty badly by the end of the afternoon. We had Meriel and her gorgeous little girls come for afternoon tea after lunch. Lily gave her approval to the dessert and then demanded pencils and paper for ‘drawing time’. It was great fun. Meriel told me both of the girls fell asleep on the way home, I wasn’t far behind them!

I apologise for the poor quality of the photos. I was so concerned with feeding my guests and not allowing baby brain to destroy the meal to allow myself any more than about 10 seconds for photos. And I completely forgot them for the dessert! Hence the reason you’re looking at the remnants of dessert, photographed when I realised this morning. But as I’ve plans to tweak the recipe a little bit more and post it online for you later this week, I’ll have ample opportunity to take more for you then.


The reason things have been a bit quiet around here lately

Late last year DM and I were in a quandary. DM had been applying for jobs, none of them based in Switzerland. And it was starting to look like we were going to be moving to Singapore in the near future. I was all prepped for big changes and mentally writing to-do lists.

Then DM was promoted within his current job, sealing our fate, we were staying in Lausanne for a few more years. We’d never intended to be in Switzerland longer than 3 years so it was a bit of a shift in view. Then, as the celebration finished and the euphoria started to wear off, we had a day of ‘what now?’

That lasted all of a day.


Photo ©Jennifer M. Howell via
Photo ©Jennifer M. Howell via

Then we I found out I was pregnant*.

Perfect timing! All of a sudden we knew just what we’d be doing and the few more years here are a blessing. I’ve got great health cover here, Switzerland’s health system is amazing and the stability we have here surrounded by fabulous friends all make having a child a much less scary prospect.

I’ve started writing lists of all the fabulous things I want to make and do for the new addition to our family. Our annual Summer Party in August is now to be a very relaxed ‘Hey We’re Having a Baby BBQ’, I’ve a nursery to decorate (when we find out the sex) and I’ve got onsies to paint, birth announcements to make and sooo many other things to knit, bake, make, sew and print! All of which I’ll share with you.

But I’m still going to be making non-baby things. Hand on heart I promise not to turn this into a baby blog.

But this doesn’t really explain why I’ve been quiet. Basically it comes down to exhaustion and nausea. The dreaded morning sickness hit me full throttle. They lie, in my case it’s more ‘all the time sickness’. Then, just as I was starting to feel more normal and to commence eating a little more whilst we were in San Francisco, I caught a gastic virus on our way home. Which combined with jet lag has wiped me out all over again! So I’ve spent rather a lot of time in bed and on the couch. Thankfully the lovely DM has done a wonderful job of looking after me and cooking for himself (as even the thought of food has made me go green lately).

On the plus side, I can still do up the buttons on my jeans (other than the super skinny ones) and I’ve been told by the doctor that baby is fine. And I’m really happy to hear that now that I’m at 12 weeks, I can soon expect a boost in energy and for the morning sickness to stop. Then the blog will pick up again.

So here’s to many more baking and craft posts!
I’ll be back to my making-self soon :)



*Yes, the little one was planned. But we didn’t expect he/ she to come along quite this quickly!


One of my readers noticed my favourite Christmas item in the blurry background of my Gingerbread Cookies post and commented on it. Until she told me, I had no idea what I owned is called a Hoptimist Rudolph! I’d bought it from Bongénie Grieder in Lausanne unboxed and without labels, just because it was so happy, festive and cute!

Hoptimist rudolf_grande

It received a whole heap of comment over Christmas; and most of our guests (of all ages), were unable to restrain themselves. He hopped and bounced around almost continuously some days! I was feeling a bit sad about packing him away until next year until I Googled and found all his other friends!

Hoptimist bumble_eg_grande

Read more

Etsy Switzerland #2 – kids

& Giveaway

In the second of my Etsy Switzerland posts I’ve focused on a few Etsy stores who make really lovely items for kids. There are just so many fabulous reasons to purchase locally and to support the artisans and small business owners within Switzerland, here are four!

And in an added bonus, one of the store owners is giving away a beautiful handmade baby blanket to one very lucky next to nicx reader!



Claudia from Mirtilo is based in Zurich. She makes these gorgeous rabbit toys using soft corduroy, cotton, cotton jersey and felt. I love the green and yellow print on this little one! And at only 30 chf each they’re very reasonably priced.

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A luxurious long weekend. Days 3 & 4; Aix en Provence

Mil and Fil had rented an appartement in the old part of the city. One with an additional bedroom and so we took advantage of their generous offer to stay with them in Aix.

It was hot! We must have acclimatised to Swiss weather because 32 degrees had us sweltering. The city is in summer festival mode. With music and concerts to be found all through the city. We had a glorious time wandering the streets, shopping, looking at the markets and eating.

The food and shopping were particular highlights: Read more