Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Mediterranean diet for bambini...

We've all heard about how great the Mediterranean diet is for your health. But you may not have known just how early this diet begins in Italy. Except for red wine, babies eat pretty much the same stuff adults do. Here are some examples:

1. olive oil--for babies. Notice that it's made by Nestlè, it's got a kid-friendly blue bear on the label, and it's enriched with extra vitamins. It doesn't taste all that great, but Italian babies don't know that yet.
2. pasta--Italians are serious about their pasta--in any major supermarket, you'll find at least two aisles filled with seemingly hundreds of varieties of pasta. Here's a box of iron/vitamin-enriched pasta recommended for babies 5 months and older. The tiniest pasta available is for 4 month-old bambini and looks like mini-cous cous. 3. fish--You know the Mediterranean diet includes fish, but you may not have known it comes packed in baby food jars. I counted 7 different types of baby food fish, and here's a sampling of salmon with vegetables.
4. rabbit--that's right, as in bunny. I know I'm a hypocrite because I do eat (and love) meat. But bunny rabbits? And does the bunny on the package have to look so darn cute?? But if you think rabbit in baby food jars is odd, check out the next one...
5. horse--Yup. As in Flicker. Black Beauty. Trigger. And that pony you always wanted as a child.
We already had the olive oil and pasta at home for our 14-month-old. But I actually went out and bought the salmon, rabbit and horse so I could take these photos in the privacy of my own home and not look like a looney toon taking photos of baby food in the supermarket.
When I unloaded the groceries, I told my (Italian) husband: "Honey, get a load of this!" His reaction? He picked up the horse jars and said, "Great stuff--horse meat is really tasty." And he wasn't even smiling...he was completely serious.
How did I not know this when I married him ten years ago? It's just not the kind of thing you ask before matrimony. You discuss how you'll discipline the kids, sure. And how many kids you'd like to have, of course. But the question of whether or not we'd feed our kids horse and/or rabbit from a jar just never came up.
My husband is out in the kitchen now making lunch for the kids (since Italians all come home mid-day for lunch). I'd better get out there and hide those baby food jars...

Monday, February 26, 2007

We interrupt the grocery shopping posts...

Today I was going to let you in on a few other idiosyncracies of Italian grocery shopping, but I wanted to share something that just happened instead...

I was at the corner store this morning getting a few groceries (I promise, this isn't about grocery shopping), and I asked the man behind the deli counter for some cheese. If you've read my "Village People" post, this man is Sonia's husband, Sonia being the lady who was telling me about her colicky granddaughter.

So as he was wrapping up the cheese, I asked about his granddaughters (he's got two--a 3-year-old and a 2-month-old). A grin spread across his face, and he said, "Do you want to see something great?" I was sure he'd show me a photo of his granddaughters. "Sure," I said. He came around the counter holding a small piece of paper to his chest so I couldn't see it. "You know those Chinese people?"

I raised an eyebrow. (Actually, I can't really do this, although I've always wished I could. In my mind, though, I raised my eyebrow). "Um, Chinese people?" I answered.

"You know, the ones on the bikes with that contraption thing in the back that holds sacks of rice?"

I'm guessing he meant a rickshaw-like contraption. "Sure," I said.

He held the paper out where I could see it and grinned. There was a sketch drawn in blue pen of a bicycle with an extention in the back that looked like a cart. He lowered his voice, like this was all top secret. "I'm going to build this," he said. "But not for carrying rice...it's for carrying my granddaughters!"

I oohed and ahhed over the sketch and the idea, and then he said, "Here, I'll show you." He waved me back into the storage room and pointed to the rafters where two used children's bicycles hung. "I got these second-hand," he said. "I'll use the wheels for the cart." And then he told me how he'd paint the cart red, put in a soft cushion covered in fake fur (not sure where this idea came from) and he'd have seat belts. And when the girls are old enough, he'd take them to Lipiza (a few kilometers away in Slovenia, with miles of tree-lined paths).

"And then," he raised his arms with a flourish, "Andrò in giro con le mie due stelline," which means he'll take a spin with his two little stars.

I've chatted with this man many times over the past few years, and he's always been friendly. But I've always thought of him as the "Deli Man," and nothing more. From now on, I'll see him as the rickshaw-building Nonno pedaling around Lipiza carting his two little stars behind him...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Grocery Shopping Italian-Style

There's nothing like visiting a grocery store in a foreign country to demystify the local people. When I first came to Italy, I imagined Italians as coffee-sipping, scooter/gondola-riding, Armani-clad people with beautiful shoes.
And then I went grocery shopping.
Once I saw Italians strolling down the aisles with their shopping carts, waiting in check-out lines with fussy babies in tow, and loading bags into the trunks of their little cars, they didn't seem so different after all (except maybe for the shoes--which really are beautiful).
But their shopping carts...that's another story.
Can you guess what's in the photo above? It's part of the handle of an Italian grocery cart. When you go grocery shopping in Italy (at the bigger stores), the shopping carts are chained together. In order to get a cart, you insert a one-Euro coin into the slot, slide it into the box, and the chain will release. When you've finished your shopping, you return the cart to the corral, plug the end of another cart's chain into the box, and out pops your one-Euro coin.
The reason for all of this, of course, is to prevent people from leaving the carts scattered all over the parking lot. As of today, one Euro is worth $1.33 (in U.S. currency). I don't know about you, but that's just enough to make me schlep back and return my cart to its proper place. If we were talking 50 cents, I might be tempted to leave the cart in the parking lot, especially when I'm shopping with my 3 kids and I have to backtrack 100 yards to return the cart. But $1.33? I just can't justify walking away from $1.33.
After all, I need those Euros to buy Italian shoes...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Martedì Grasso

Martedì Grasso is the Italian version of Marti Gras, or "Fat Tuesday," the last day of Carnevale before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. It's the last chance for Italians to eat, drink and be merry before giving up whatever they give up for Lent.

Most Italian children have 2 sets of costumes, one for outdoors and one for inside. On the left is a shot of my kids--my daughters are dressed as a cow and giraffe that they wore to the parade in Opicinia (see last post). My son is dressed as Prince Charming...he doesn't have an outside costume, which is the beauty of being 14 months old--he has no clue he's missing out on anything. We just bundled him up in his regular clothes since it was freezing outside, and he was none the wiser.
The last two photos were taken at an indoor party for kids. As you can see, my giraffe and cow have both turned into Snow White, accompanied by Prince Charming (although in the last photo, we had to drop the "Charming" part and just call him "Prince").
At indoor Carnevale parties, there's usually a magician, really loud music so no one can hear what the magician is saying, and about 10 pounds of confetti per child. Kids run around wild, fueled by a sugar high from traditional treats like crostoli and frittole (fried pastries), working themselves into a confetti-throwing frenzy while the adults stand around chatting...except for me. It's hard to chat while using your body as a shield so your toddler won't be mowed over by a pack of sugar-crazed 5th grade boys play-fighting each other with balloon swords.
I didn't mind, though--at least it kept me away from the food table...

Carnevale Parade in Opicina

We're back from the long weekend, so here's a recap of Saturday's Carnevale festivities...

These are some photos of the parade we saw on Saturday in Opicina, the village where my girls go to school. The village was packed with people. The weather would have been perfect if not for the blistering cold wind, but we still had a good time. Basically, parents and small children lined the streets watching the parade, while teenagers chased each other with shaving cream and spray cans of this sticky, colored stuff that doesn't wash off easily if you're caught in the crossfire (I know this for a fact).

It was funny to watch the teens...some things don't change from culture to culture. Like American teens at Halloween, their Italian counterparts were dressed in "cool" costumes (no Minnie Mouse or Donald Duck), and most of them weren't wearing jackets--a big sign advertising: "My parents are home in their warm houses, and have no idea I'm jacketless." In trying to be cool, they must have been freezing. And then watching them chase each other was interesting...it was usually initiated by the boys. If a boy had his eye on a member of the opposite sex, the ritual went something like this:

1. Grin and wave the spray can of shaving cream/silly string/colorful hard-to-wash-off goo at the girl you like.

2. Announce that you're about to spray her.

3. Your object of desire will then communicate her degree of receptivity by either a.) rolling her eyes (this is not good), or b.) shrieking and running away (this is a blantant invitation to start spraying).

Since I can't figure out how to post new photos here, I'll create a new post for yesterday's Carnevale party...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

to be continued...

The major Carnevale festivities begin today. My daughter gets out of school 30 minutes early today (at noon), and after lunch we'll go to the big parade in Opicina--the village where her school is. Right after that we're going skiing for a few days, so I'll have Carnevale and skiing pictures up by Wednesday of next week.

Happy long weekend to all!

Friday, February 16, 2007

I thought I'd seen it all...











I really thought I'd seen all Italian parking options. Turns out I hadn't.

Yesterday I spotted this tiny Fiat 500 parked...on a crosswalk. It's hard to see because it's an evening shot, but there are actually two crosswalks perpendicular to each other. And the driver decided to leave his car in the middle of one of them.

While I stood there on the sidewalk, two police cars drove by. And no, they didn't even slow down. Maybe they were late for their coffee break...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Village People

Although there are large grocery store chains in Trieste, I usually do my grocery shopping in the village near our apartment. Here's a shot of the street where I went this morning with my son. We made 5 stops, all within 25 yards of each other. After an hour and a half, I ended up with 2 small bags of groceries. Why did it take so long?
Here's a run-down of our errands:
1. The butcher (one of the shops in the pale green building on the right)--Another customer overheard me ordering 2 steaks , and spoke in Slovenian to the butcher. When the butcher answered, the only word I understood was "Amerikanska." The customer nodded and smiled. "America!" "Ja," I said--one of a total of 4 words I know in Slovenian. The butcher then proceeded to explain my story in Slovenian (I only know this because he translated for me afterwards). Then the customer told me all about her cousin in Canada, and asked if I'd ever been to Toronto (I haven't). She played peek-a-boo with my son, and then we were on our way to...
2. The corner store (in front of the silver car on the right)--where I bought some fruit and vegetables (this shop has the best selection). I asked Sonia (the owner) how her 2-month-old granddaughter is doing. She told me all about the baby's colic, and how she goes and helps out her daughter when she can. During this conversation, two 70-something women were waiting in line behind me. One woman chimed in about her sure-fire cures for colic, and the other woman said that was a bunch of hooey, sparking a heated discussion half in the local Italian dialect, and half in Slovenian. Then my son coughed, and they all fell silent. He coughed again. Sonia asked if I'd taken my son to the pediatrician. One of the customers said to give him honey and he'll be fine. The other woman agreed, but insisted that I should get the honey from the local beekeeper, since local bees make antibodies in their honey that cures all (or most) local ailments. I smiled, thanked them, and then we were off to...
3. The bakery (on the left, just beyond the white van)--As soon as I walked in, two of the employees greeted my son by name. I ordered my bread and a caffe latte. While I stirred sugar into my coffee, I asked the lady behind the bar how her daughter was. She told me all about how well her daughter did on her first grade report card, and played peek-a-boo with my son from behind the espresso-maker. As I sipped my coffee, a man came in with his dog (pets are allowed, as they are in many restaurants, too). My son made a beeline for the dog, so I put my coffee cup down and went to scoop him up. Magdalena, the bakery/bar owner, told me I should drink my coffee in peace, so she held her arms out and called my son's name. I handed him to her over the bar, and she took him over to the cash register where 4 people were waiting in line. She started to ring up the first customer's bill, when my son coughed. I knew what was coming. "Have you taken him to the doctor?" she asked me. I said yes, that he only has a cold. She didn't look convinced. My son coughed again, so Magdalena gave him a cookie. The 4 people in line turned to me and gave me their cough remedy tips (a nebulizer, steamy bath, and honey--again). I finished my coffee, and Magdalena handed my son back to me, his mouth covered in cookie crumbs, but smiling. From there we went to...
4. The grocery store (back to the green building on the right, just past the butcher's)--When I say "grocery store," it's not like an American grocery store...it's about as big as your local 7-11. The lady who helps with the produce greeted my son by name, and he reached his arms out to her, so she held him while I put some milk and yogurt in my cart. She raved about how big he was getting (she'd just seen him yesterday), and put him on the produce scale to weigh him (10 kilos), which he loved. Then he saw the lady behind the deli counter, and wanted to go to her. She was cutting some ham for another customer, so I told him he had to wait. Then he started to cry and cough, so the lady cut a sliver of ham, put down her knife, and came around the counter to pick him up. She gave him the ham, which he immediately stuffed in his mouth. "Have you taken him to the doctor for that cough?" she asked. Then it was on to the check-out line, with 2 ladies ahead of me. My son started to cry again, so the cashier said something in Slovenian to the ladies. They smiled at me and motioned for me to go ahead of them (I love them). We checked out, and I threw my groceries into the bag while my son fussed (there are no baggers here...you have to bag your own groceries). I didn't do a very good job, however, and it looked like the groceries wouldn't fit in just one bag. The cashier expertly repacked my groceries while singing a song for my son, which calmed him down right away. She opened the door for me while the other customers waited. Finally it was on to...
5. The pharmacy (I took the photo while standing right outside)--I went here to get some pasta for my son. Yes, they make pasta just for babies and toddlers--about 50 different varieties. They have this pasta in the larger grocery stores, but not in the village store, so that's why I had to hit the pharmacy. While I waited in line, my son occupied himself by shaking the pasta box up and down. When our turn came, the pharmacist came around from behind the counter to greet my son. He asked my son if he could borrow the box of pasta to ring it up. That's when my son's smile faded, and his little fingers gripped the box even tighter. So the pharmacist picked up my son and brought him back to the cash register where he could scan the price and ring it up. "Will that be all?" he said. My son coughed. The pharmacist frowned. "I have something for that cough, if you'd like."
So now you know why it takes 90 minutes to get two bags of groceries. And why it takes a village to cure a cough...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Parking on the sidewalk...

Italians are creative--there's no doubt about it. Just look at the number of famous Italian artists, from Michelangelo to Botticelli to Da Vinci. So it's no wonder that such an auspicious gene pool breeds creativity. And nowhere is this creative streak more apparent than in the modern Italian art form of...


Here's a photo of the front of the bar I showed you in my last post. Let's pretend you're an Italian in need of a cappucino. You're in your car. What do you do?

1. Head toward the nearest bar (cafè).
2. Scout out a free parking space (cue theme song from "Mission Impossible.")
3. Drive past the bar. (Theme song intensifies).
4. Realize the folly of trying to find a free parking space.
5. Turn the car around.
6. Pull up on the sidewalk right in front of the bar (avoiding any pedestrians and women with strollers, if possible).
7. Go inside, order your tiny cappucino, and down it in one gulp.
8. Head back to your car.

Note: If there were a police car outside the bar, you would proceed in exactly the same manner, except you'd put on your hazard lights--which roughly translates as: "I know I'm parked illegally, but I promise I'll be right back. Really. As soon as I drink my coffee." Then you belly up to the bar next to the policemen drinking their coffee.

Mission accomplished.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

An Abundance of Breasts*

* with a nod to John Green, author of the award-winning young adult novel An Abundance of Katherines

Although the Carnevale (car-neh-VAH-leh) season won't officially begin until later this week, Italians are already gearing up with decorations and a few costume parties for kids.

Can you guess where this photo was taken? No, not outside a cabaret. No, not at a night club. I took this photo outside the bar right down the street from my daughters' school. (Bars here aren't like bars in the U.S.--they're more like cafès where the beverage of choice is always coffee.)

You may notice that the writing in the center is in French--strange, since the Italians aren't France's biggest fans.

And you may notice the writing on either side of the women, announcing the upcoming Carnevale festivities in Italian on the left and in Slovenian on the right (this village is about 3 miles from the border with Solvenia).

But apart from that, what stands out most to you? I know the photo is a bit grainy, but look closely. What's peeking out above the blue and red boas?

Yup. Breasts.

I was the only one who did a double-take when I saw this display while drinking my coffee. The rest of the crowd--men, women and children--didn't pay any attention.

Breasts are just not a big deal in Italy. Newsstands openly display magazine covers with breasts. Female newscasters wear lowcut shirts that barely contain their breasts. Walk into a pharmacy, and you'll see advertisements for skin care products that showcase--you guessed it--more breasts. Even one of my daughter's preschool teachers always wears outfits that reveal her cleavage. And no one thinks anything of it.

In the summer, women of all shapes, ages, and sizes let everything hang out (literally) at the beach. Men and women meet and greet each other, drink coffee, play cards--and not one top in sight.

I'll admit, I just can't do this. I know this "breasts-are-no-big-deal" attitude is probably much healthier than our puritanical American view of breasts. But the thought of running into someone I know and carrying on a conversation while half-naked? I can't imagine. I try to take the "When in Rome..." attitude with most things in Italy. But even the Romans wore breast-concealing togas, didn't they??

Friday, February 09, 2007

It's all done with mirrors...

I can't talk about driving in Italy without mentioning mirrors--one of the most important pieces of Italian driving equipment.
Remember the curvy street I showed you a few posts ago? The picture on the left is a shot from the opposite direction, towards the village church. On the front left side of that photo, you'll see a white wall with a small, arched opening (which houses a statue of the Madonna, by the way). To the right of the arch is a pole, and on top of that is a round, curved mirror. It's a bit difficult to see, so I included a close-up of another mirror in the top photo.
These mirrors are great, because if you're entering a road on a blind curve, you can see if another car is coming by looking in the mirror. And if that doesn't work, there's always that statue of the Madonna...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Nowhere near as busy as a bee...

While we're on the topic of all things miniature, I thought you might get a kick out of these photos. These are both mini-trucks about the size of a Volkswagon Beetle.

The Coca-Cola truck looks like it can haul a grand total of four cases of Coke. Which begs the question: how many deliveries can this thing really make? It's parked outside the bar/bakery in my village, where the delivery guy unloaded a case of Coke. He then spent 45 minutes drinking coffee, chatting with the villagers, and reading the local newspaper. At this rate, it should take him all morning to deliver that Coke...no need for a large-capacity truck, now--is there?

The red truck above is called an Ape (AH-peh), which means "bee" in Italian. It must get its name from the sound of the motor--a high-pitched whine that intensifies as the driver puts the pedal to the medal, bringing the vehicle to it's maximum warp speed of about 25 mph.

At first glance, it may seem as if the front wheels are missing. But look closely, and you'll see one wheel in the front center...that's right, this thing's only got 3 wheels. It's the tricycle of the truck world. Two regular-sized adults can squish into the cab, but only if they know each other well (and get along). The Ape is popular with farmers, and you'll often see everything from hay to wood to jugs of wine hauled in the back. This model is actually the deluxe long-bed model--here's a regular-sized Ape:

Like the smart car from yesterday's post, I wouldn't want to travel in one of these mini-trucks, but they are cute to look at...unless you're running late picking your kids up from school (again), and you're stuck behind one of these three-wheeled wonders. Then they're not so cute...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Smart (?) cars

When we moved to Italy 3 years ago, we had our mini van shipped (note: our mini van is not the car pictured on the right).

In Italy, there's nothing mini about our van...in fact, "mammoth van" would be a more accurate term. It doesn't fit into parking spots. Well, it does...as long as no one is parked on either side of you. (And if that's the case, you can't open your doors, so your exiting options are limited to the rear gate).

Italians love cars like the smart car shown in the photo here. And yes, it is officially called the smart car, written in lower case...even the letters are small. It's built for two people, and if you were sitting in the front (only) seats, you could actually reach back and touch the rear window.

So what's so smart about this car?

1. It's great on fuel economy...and gas here is more than twice the price in America, believe it or not.

2. Parking...you might notice the white lines in the photo, and note the fact that this car is only taking up roughly half its allotted space. I love parking behind these cars.

3. Parking...again. I wish I had a photo to illustrate this, but these cars can actually parallel park sideways--with the nose facing the curb and the rear end facing the traffic. Can we call this perpendicular parking?

What's not so smart about these cars?

1. They're driven in Italy.
2. Where Italians drive (see yesterday's post).
3. Yikes.

My behemoth van may not be cute. Or sleek. Or sporty. But it beats driving in a tin can. As long as I keep driving in circles and don't actually need to park...

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Two-Way Street...sort of

It's time to leave my view and household appliances behind and head outdoors...

Driving in Italy is a different beast than driving in the U.S. It takes courage, know-how, and lots of luck. Especially luck.

I took this photo in a nearby village from my car this morning (not while driving...I'm not that coordinated). Would you believe this is a two-way street? The village was built hundreds of years ago, so the road is wide enough for a horse and cart--not two cars side-by-side.

And it's so curvy that you can't see the end of the street. So how does one navigate this stretch of road? If you're Italian, you do the following:

1. Maintain your speed as you approach the first curve...maybe even speed up if you're feeling lucky.

2. Hug the right wall and don't worry if there are any pedestrians around the curve--they'll (probably) get out of the way by pressing themselves up against the wall and sucking in their breath when you whiz by.

3. If you meet a car coming in the opposite direction, screech to a halt and hope the other driver does the same.

4. Eye the other driver until one of you decides to back up and let the other pass. (I must admit I have no idea how they decide who has to back up...I'm pretty sure there's some secret signal I'm missing).

5. When the way is clear, step on the gas.

6. Repeat at next curve.

The only ones who always have the right of way are bus drivers...they skip the "screech to a halt" part, leaving you about .729th of a second to throw the gears into reverse and get out of the way, lest they mow you over.

I think I'll stay home today...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

While we're on the topic of home appliances...

After yesterday's eye-opening Italian washing machine exposè, someone asked if all Italian appliances are miniature. And of course, the answer is...yes (big surprise, I know). Today's post features...(drum roll)... my kitchen appliances...(cymbal crash)! Namely, the fridge/freezer and dishwasher. Italian kitchens are all about hiding appliances--not difficult, since they're minuscule. If you were to look at the photos above, you might be hard pressed to tell where the dishwasher is vs. a regular cabinet, since it's all covered in wood panels.
On the left, the tall panel with my kids' artwork taped to it (no magnets, sadly) is the fridge. Above that is the freezer (adorned with more artwork) plus a non-freezer shelf.
In the photo to the right, the dishwasher is on the right of the cabinet below the sink. (Just a note: I hope you all appreciate the fact that I cleaned the kitchen for these photos...I know my husband appreciates it, because it means he doesn't have to do it.)
Okay, now for the sizes. Once again, my 13-month-old will put everything into perspective for you--thrilling for him, since he knows he's not allowed to play with the fridge and/or dishwasher... he could hardly believe his good luck with this photo shoot.
On the right is the 5-plate-capacity dishwasher. Throw in a few glasses and some tupperware and it's time to start that puppy up.
On the left, of course, is the fridge. See the bottle with the red cap that my son is reaching for? That's 1 liter of milk--the largest-size container of milk sold in all of Italy. When my father-in-law came to visit us in the U.S. one year, he gawked at the gallon of milk in our American fridge. He shook his head and said, "Everything in America is big." So true.
Now if you look closely, you can see a bottle of Ocean Spray juice, French's mustard and A.1. Steak Sauce...that's left over from a trip to Aviano Air Force base (in Italy) that I took with my parents when they came to visit last spring (my dad's retired military). God Bless the commissary.
So what's the result of having a kitchen with tiny appliances? Grocery shopping EVERYday. I kid you not. When my husband and I lived in the U.S. the first 6 years of our marriage, I never really understood why he felt the need to go to the grocery store
Even when we had an American fridge that could easily house 3 Italian fridges.
He had to buy fresh salad everyday (what's wrong with the pre-washed salad in a bag?) and fresh bread (the sliced bread with a 30-day shelf life was good enough for me).
I will admit there's one advantage to having a college-dorm-room-sized fridge--it doesn't take long to discover those forgotten, half-used jars of sauce at the back of the bottom shelf. And I can freely admit here that I use sauce from a jar...unlike my mother-in-law. Who doesn't speak English, and therefore, will never read this blog.
(Why do you think those jars were shoved all the way to the back of the fridge in the first place?)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The rest of the view...

After yesterday's post, some of you wrote to me and oohed and aahed about our view. So I thought I'd show you the rest of the view, which segues into a post on laundry (bear with me...).

These are some of my favorites... after a snow storm, and a winter sunset. Spectacular, aren't they?

But these photos don't tell the whole story. They were taken from our balcony. But if I back up a bit with my camera... there in the foreground of the breathtaking scenery, you'll find...
our laundry.

That's right...it's hanging on a drying rack, smack dab in the middle of the view. "Why does she hang her clothes out to dry?" you might ask. Because we don't have a clothes dryer, and neither does 99% of the Italian population. Electricity is outrageously expensive here, and dryers use up too much energy.

I can hear your next question: "It's not like there's always laundry out on the balcony, right?"

3 children + 1 Italian washing machine= me as a perpetual laundress

Here's why...
This is the opening to my washing machine...my hand is in the photo to give you an idea of how small it is. And no, I don't have gigantic hands--they're normal-sized. Try cramming a bedspread in there...it ain't easy.

And here's my 13-month-old son in front of the machine. And no, he's not a gigantic 13-month-old...he's regular-sized.

So if anyone was feeling a bit envious after yesterday's post of the view from my window, I hope today's post has made you feel better. In fact, let's designate today as National American Washing Machine and Dryer Appreciation Day. Go ahead--put 10 pairs of jeans, 20 towels and 50 shirts in your washing machine, then pop them in your dryer, and have them come out soft and fluffy.

Sigh. I think I'll go now and stand at my window...

Friday, February 02, 2007

The view from my window...

I live in Trieste, a city on the Adriatic Sea tucked way up in the northeast corner of Italy. Except for a handful of people, most of my family and friends haven't seen where I live. Those who have never been here say things like: "Italy! You must love it there!" or "You're so lucky!" And I am.

Most of the time.

But then there are the other times...wading my way through the infamous Italian red tape (which I'm pretty sure is represented by the red stripe on the Italian flag ...), the Italian postal system (where "snail mail" takes on new meaning), and parking...don't get me started on parking.

But I didn't want to begin this blog on a negative note, so I thought I'd post a picture of the view from our living room window. On those days when I've battled red tape, something important has been lost in the mail, and I've had to park on the sidewalk because I arrived late to pick up my kids from school, I just take a deep breath (okay, maybe three) and soak in the view from the window...it works even better with a glass of wine in my hand.