Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sick in America

Let me begin this post by declaring this: it is a universal injustice that people who dutifully get their flu shot end up with the flu. I know, there are different strains of the flu virus, blah, blah, blah. Still.

Being sick in America is a bit different than being sick in Italy. Here are some of the major differences:

1. In Italy, doctors still make house calls. Granted, you need to be pretty sick for this to happen. Either that, or have an insistent mother-in-law. Which pretty much covers a good chunk of the population.

Once I had (what turned out to be) strep throat with a fever of about 102. My mother-in-law had brought lunch over and insisted I take my temperature. She then insisted I call the doctor and tell him to come over right away, since it was a blustery January day. He asked what my symptoms were, and then said something like: "Can't you just come in yourself?" to which I answered, "Sure, I can come in." That's when my mother-in-law took over, berating the doctor for not coming over when I'd asked, and making it sound like I was on my death bed.

Long story short (er), he showed up on his motor scooter about 30 minutes later. Under the eagle eye of my mother-in-law, he examined my throat, felt my forehead, and did that awful throat culture thing that makes you gag. When my mother-in-law was out of ear shot, he whispered, "You could have come in, you know." I gave a subtle nod toward my mother-in-law and whispered back, "Yes, I know." He did one of those peripheral glances her way and nodded, as if to say, "I know. I have one of those at home, too."

2. Speaking of throat cultures, the thing the doctor sticks down your throat is called a tampone in Italian. Last month my 9-year-old daughter asked the pediatrician if she had to have a tampone when she had strep throat. Nice. Bless him, he didn't even raise an eyebrow. I taught her the term "throat culture" right there on the spot.

3. Another major difference between being sick in America and ammalata in'Italia is that no one from work stopped by my house to see if I was really sick. In Italy, many employers do this, making it hard to play hooky from work. Hard, but not impossible. They do have the courtesy of telling you when they'll be stopping by--they usually give you a 2-hour window.

4. Lastly, one of the things I appreciate most about being sick in America is prescriptions. In Italy, the directions aren't printed for you on the label. I discovered this the hard way. As the doctor was telling me what the dosage was, I nodded and said, "Si, si, va bene," which translates to: "Okay, okay, just give me the paper so I can get to the pharmacy and put myself out of this misery."

Well, I should have listened. There was no label, and I had to slog through the enclosed pamphlet in Italian and figure out the dosage by weight (in kilos, of course).

But the best part about being sick in America? I have 3 (or is it 5?) words for you:

24-hour drive-thru pharmacy

God Bless America

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Feeling Thankful

This Fall season has flown by. I can't believe Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is only 3 weeks away. Here are a few things we've been thankful for this Fall...

1. Trick-or-Treating in a land of trick-or-treat experts.
For the past 5 years, we had to create our own Halloween in Italy. Sure, the shops were festooned with jack-o-lanterns and witches, but that's where all the orange and bl
ack fun ended. No one actually carves pumpkins or goes trick-or-treating. All the costume fun comes later, during Carnivale.

We started a trick-or-treating tradition with our neighbors, but we had to buy the candy ahead of time, put it into small bags and tie the bags to their doorknobs. That way our kids would get candy even if the neighbors weren't home. And most weren't, because why should they be at 7:30pm, when most people are just getting off work? This year, it was so nice to go door to door and get free candy. For the kids, or all went to the kids.

2. Fall leaves
The most common kind of trees in Trieste seemed to be pine trees. There were other kinds whose names escape me, but very few turned color in the fall. Those who did were beautiful, but their hues were mild, understated. The fall colors here on the east coast of the U.S. took my breath away.

3. Thanksgiving

My Italian relatives have all seen the traditional Turkey-Day dinner in American movies, of course, so they were all excited when the end of November rolled around. This meant that Natalie had to prepare the turkey and all the fixin's herself. Everyone worked on Thanksgiving, so they all showed up right before dinner was served. Italian table manners dictate that you must dive in as soon as the food is set before you (a sign of respect for the food and the cook, because who wants to eat cold food?). No matter how much I planned, I was always slow on the gravy uptake, and my in-laws would inevitably finish the dinner while I was out in the kitchen stirring up the gravy. This meant more gravy for me, however, so it wasn't all bad.

This year we went to my parents' house, and my mom was in charge of the dinner. She would tell my sister and I when to stir this, how much butter we needed to add to that, which we dutifully did while the three of us chatted away. I loved it.

Hope everyone had a peaceful, happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tip for the Dryer-Challenged

Those of you who have followed this blog from its inception know how I feel about doing laundry in Italy. One of things I missed most was my American clothes dryer.

Fluffy clothes.

Warm towels.

Not waiting days for your clothes to dry because it's been raining for the last
week but it's too warm in the house to turn on the radiators and drape your laundry over them.

What's not to love?

So we've been in our home here for about 6 weeks, and I'm loving my clothes dryer. Then about 10 days ago, I notice that the clothes aren't drying like they should. I'd been using the second highest heat setting so as not to ruin our bought-in-Italy clothes that were not made to withstand the high heat of a dryer. But as the days go
on, the loads of laundry are more and more damp at the end of the cycle.

So I ramp it up to high heat. No messing around now--we're talking the Cotton Cycle. I figure the Italian-made clothes will just have to bear the heat or get out of the dryer--with 3 kids, I don't have time to weed out American vs.Italian clothes. The survivors earn a place in our dresser drawers. Those who can't take the heat are destined for the scrap pile.

The Cotton Cycle worked for about 2 days. Then the damp seeped in once again, and I found myself needing to run the clothes through a cycle and a half. Then two. I thought I was destined to have to pay for a new motor, or worse, a whole new dryer.

Then this morning, I went down to take out another load (which was finally dry after the third cycle). I'd forgotten the laundry basket, so I needed to pile the laundry on top of the dryer in order to switch the other set of clothes from the washer to the dryer.

I clear off the top of the dryer (boxes of stuff we haven't unpacked yet), and there it was.

The lint trap door.

The one I'm supposed to be cleaning out after each load.


Now, here's what you probably find in your lint trap:

The lint I heaved out of my lint trap was monstrous. I would post a photo, but we can't find the recharger for our digital camera (it's probably in one of the boxes that was stacked on top of the dryer). But if/when I do, I will add a photo to this post.

I kid you not, the lint is 3 inches thick.

Just goes to show what 5 dryer-less years out of the country can do...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

It's the pedal on the right, people.

We all know that Italian drivers have quite a reputation. They speed. They tailgate. They treat stop signs like yield signs. They illegally pass slow cars (the Italian definition of "slow" being anyone who's only going 10-20 km over the speed limit). Mrs. Hall, my high school Driver's Education teacher, would be appalled.

When we first moved to Italy, we shipped our mini (behemoth) van with us. It wasn't exactly the sleek, hairpin-curve-hugging driving machine that one normally associates with Italian roads. It didn't fit in parking spaces. It didn't even really fit in parking garages. Whenever I'd descend down the narrow, spiral ramp into the darkened bowels of an Italian parking garage, my kids would actually cheer if they didn't hear the telltale metallic scrape of the side of my car against the concrete wall.

After a few months, I realized that my sense of personal driving space had narrowed in that not-so-mini van of mine. I no longer gasped when someone shot out from behind me and passed me on my right. At red lights, I barely noticed when motor scooters zipped past me in their rush to get to the front before the light turned green. And stop signs? Schmtop signs. I became as guilty as all the rest of the crazy Italians on the road.

But although I eventually became more comfortable behind the wheel, it was always "me" (the sane, safe driver) and "them" (the crazy Italians).

Until I moved back to the States.

I am now in a land where drivers put their turn signals on for each. And. Every. Turn. Even when no one else is around.

Where "speeding" means going 10-15 miles over the speed limit, and you could actually get a ticket.

Where people wait to turn left at a green light, even when they've got a good 30 seconds before oncoming traffic will be entering the intersection.

And I am behind all of these people as I drive to work each morning.

Little did I know that 5 years in Italy would turn me into an Italian driver. A watered-down, American version of an Italian driver, perhaps, but an Italian driver nonetheless. I am no longer that driver who slows to 5 mph 25 yards before making a right turn on a one lane road. Nay. I'm now the one behind that driver, who grumbles: "Come on, sweetheart. It's the pedal on the right."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More stateside observations....

Yowsa...I can't believe it's been a whole month since my last entry. We're getting into the swing of things, and just when I think I'm getting used to the whole American thing, something crops up that surprises the Italian in me. Here we go with three more Americanisms:

1. We bought a car--on a Sunday. If you're American, you're probably wondering why this is on my list. If you're Italian, you're thinking that the word "Sunday" must be a typo.

In Italy, you'd be hard-pressed to buy a liter of milk on a Sunday. Well, you could, but you'd have to go out of your way to one of the larger grocery store chains, because everything else is closed.

But a car?? That's right. We saw it on the Internet at a car dealer, called Friday night, went to see it on Saturday, liked it, made a deal, returned on Sunday to sign the paperwork and drive our new car home. Just like that. And did I mention it was a Sunday?

2. Walk-in freezer--I've heard of these things, but had never been in one until I went to Shopper's Food Warehouse the other week. I was stuck in the cereal aisle with my indecisive kids (why can't they make up their minds? There are only 246 kinds to choose from...) while my husband went to pick up some beer. He couldn't find it, so we headed off together. We finally found it--in a walk-in freezer the size of a 7-11 store, I swear. My (Italian) husband opened the door, stuck one foot inside, withdrew his foot, closed the door, and said: "I'm not going in there. It's freezing!"

If you're new to this blog, or Italian culture in general, you might not know that Italians don't like cold (or even cool) breezes blowing on them-especially on their neck. Over the door to this freezer was a machine that was spewing Arctic air on anyone who dared enter this beer tundra. So I left my husband standing there with the kids and braved my way through the doors. Before the door shut, I heard my daughter say, "I want to go with Mommy!" I turned back to see my husband grasp her hand and shake his head, then look at me like I was going off to Siberia. I got the beer, then headed back into the slightly less-frigid air-conditioned store. And I didn't even catch pneumonia.

If the Italian government wants to put an end to alcoholism in Italy, all they have to do is install one of these walk-in-freezers wherever alcohol is sold. No one would enter. I'm not kidding.

3. I know I've spoken of waiting-in-line etiquette before, but I was still surprised the other day when I was in line at the grocery store, and a cashier opened up a new line right next to mine. I was third in line, with two people behind me. I was ready for the mad dash, but when I turned to the newly-opened line, no one was there yet.

"Just my luck!" I thought. "No one else heard the cashier say the line was open!"

As I glanced at the person behind me to size up my competition before sprinting away, the lady behind me said: "Please, go right ahead."

All the sprint wooshed out of me. "Are you sure?" I said.

"Of course," she replied. "You're ahead of me." And she was right. I was ahead of her.

In Italy, I would have had my toes run over by the cart-pushers mowing me over from behind.

Here in America, grocery shoppers' toes are safe. Just watch out for those walk-in-freezers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


We've been back a whole week now, and it feels more like a month.

More good American things I'd forgotten about:

1. customer service--everyone is so friendly here. I went to the bank to have something notarized, and when I learned that the notary guy wasn't in, the bank lady called a nearby branch to make sure the notary was in, then she Yahoo-ed directions to that branch and printed it out, along with the other branch's phone number. And that's not the only example--I could go on. And on.

Italians are friendly, too, just not in shops (unless they know you). I once went to buy a measly pair of tights for my daughter at a shop in Italy. I had my three kids in tow, the youngest of whom was whiny (to put it mildly). I must have waited 5 minutes (which is more like 10 when you factor in the cranky toddler) while the shop keeper blabbed with her friend. During their conversation, I said things to my toddler like: "I'm sure our turn will be soon, honey" in a loud voice, but to no avail. She never once looked my way, or said anything like: I'll be right with you.

Italians are many wonderful things, but public servants they are not.

2. lines--everyone waits in line here. In orderly lines. Patiently. The lines in Italy aren't linear--they're blob-shaped. Waiting in an Italian line is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be quick. You need to pay attention. You need your elbows at the ready. The worst line cutters are the grandmothers. They look innocent, but I am here to tell you they are not. Their grandmotherly (apparent) innocence is their secret weapon. They pretend not to see you (picture a "Who, me?" expression) and while you're off guard, they shout out their coffee order ahead of you.

In a U.S. line, I could be reading a book, and the guy behind me would say, "Excuse me, but aren't you next?" In Italy, I could read War and Peace from cover to cover and still have the line cutters silently stream around me.

And now for some not-so-great things:
1. The Fuzz--not that I'm a fugitive of the law, or anything, but it's a little disconcerting to see policemen everywhere. I don't know about you, but whenever I see a police car while I'm driving, I automatically hit the brakes, even if I'm obeying the speed limit. The other day I was driving during morning rush hour, and there was a cop by the side of the road pointing a big 'ol radar gun my way, his feet planted shoulder-width apart, looking like the sheriff of his own little median strip.

Sure, I used to see Italian policemen, but I've never seen an Italian speed trap. Probably because the policemen are afraid they'd trap their own mothers, since everyone speeds in Italy.

2. Lockdowns--Have you ever heard of those? If you aren't a kid in this post 9-11 era, you probably haven't heard this term in regards to an elementary school. I'm a teacher who will be teaching in a year-round school that starts soon. (I know, it's not even August yet. Tell me about it). We had our first staff meeting the other day, and the principal was going over safety procedures. So we cover fire drills. Fine. Then tornado drills. Okay. Then we cover the procedures to follow if:
a.) there's a threat outside the school (if someone has robbed a home in the neighborhood and is on the loose),
b.) if there's a bio-chemical hazard outside the school, and finally
c.) the lockdown, if there's a threat in the school building. If this happens, we have to lock our classroom doors, draw the blinds, tape paper over the window in the door that leads from the classroom to the hallway, and have the class huddle in the corner furthest from the door.

I don't even know what to say to this. Maybe all of this is necessary in Italy, too, but they don't know it yet? I hate to think of my daughters practicing these drills come September, and asking "Why?".

Suddenly, those Italian grandmothers in the blob-shaped lines don't seem so bad...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

We're back!

We got in last night, and we've been up since 4:00 this morning, but all in all the trip went well.

In the week before we left, I took lots of photos to post about what I'll miss/not miss about Italy, and have now lost my camera. Oy. If it turns up, I'll post the photos. If not, I'll have to resort to a thousand words.

A few first impressions:
1. Air conditioning. Whoa.
2. Soft, fluffy towels. Ahhhh.
3. Three things I'd totally forgotten about: English muffins, cranberry juice, hash browns.
4. TV is everywhere. Even in the customs line in the airport. Which is a good thing when you have a tired 2-year-old. He saw a baseball game on TV, pointed and shouted: "Basketball!" There was also a TV in the hotel breakfast room this morning. A big TV. And no one was talking to anyone. Even we got sucked in, and all that was on was the Washington, D.C. traffic report.

More later...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What I WON'T miss about Italy (post #1)

After getting all misty-eyed over the things I'll miss, it's only fair that I show you what I WON'T miss about life in Italy. Take a look at the photo below. Can you figure out what's going on here?

It might be difficult to see behind the reflection on the windshields, but there aren't any drivers in these cars. They're parked. Note the car all the way on the left, and the car behind it. These cars are parked legally, next to the curb. Fine.

Now look at the middle car up front--the Mercedes. That parking position is what Italians call in seconda, which means it's parked in the second parallel position next to the curb. It's illegal, but you probably won't get a ticket as long as you keep your eye on your car, ready to move it at a moment's notice. This parking technique is often used when Italians dash into a bar to get a coffee.

Look closely and you'll see another car behind the Mercedes. If anyone on the inside wants to get out, all they have to do is lean on their horn, and the owner of the cars in seconda will materialize and move their cars. Or the seconda drivers might leave their cell phone numbers scribbled on a piece of paper left on the dashboard for you to call and tell them to get their cars out of the way.

Now enter our car. The blue one all the way on the right. We went to the beach on this day, and there was no spot in sight. Not even in seconda. So my husband invented a place--in terza, I suppose you could call it. It's literally right in the middle of the road. But it's the perfect spot--we're not blocking anyone in, and there's room for other cars to get by. Illegal? Schmillegal.

I must admit, parking in the middle of the road would have never occurred to me. I've parked on sidewalks, mind you, and in the occasional bus lane. But this time, I would have driven right by this prime parking spot, muttering that all the spaces were filled.

While I admire the Italians for their parking prowess, I yearn for the wide spaces in the Target parking lot. I used to lament when the only free space at the mall on the morning of December 24 was all the way at the end, a kilometer away from the nearest entrance. Now? I'll never curse another American parking lot again.

Monday, July 07, 2008

What I'll miss about Italy (post #3)...

...walking through the citta vecchia (old city), former home of the Ancient Romans.

If you look closely at the lower left of the yellow building in the photo below, you'll see the exposed stone from the original structure. Many older houses leave that peek into the past for all to see. Here's the view of the strip of sky above me, sandwiched by the buildings in the alley:

It still amazes me that people walk these streets every day and don't pause to think about the history that surrounds them. For Italians, 300-year-old buildings are simply part of the landscape.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What I'll miss about Italy (post #1)... living an hour and a half away from this floating city: ...where boats (although rarely gondolas) are the main form of transportation.

Venice is a dream destination for thousands of people around the world, and yet we can say: "Let's spend the day in Venice." And we have, countless times. The road signs on the autostrada that say: Venezia still strike me as exotic, even if they don't merit a second glance from Italians.

It was the same way for my Italian husband when we lived in Virginia--he used to see Beltway signs for Washington, D.C. and still find it hard to believe that we lived so close to such a famous city. I love Washington, but to my eyes, it can't compare to Venice.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

On our way out...

After 5 wonderful years in Italy, we're headed back to the States on July 16. Italian Moments will soon dwindle to a sprinkling of posts here and there, but it won't die altogether...I'll blog about re-entry culture shock as we get used to life in the States again, and then I'll be posting each summer, as we'll be back during July and most of August each year (my husband and I aren't independently wealthy, in case you're wondering why we get to "summer" in Italy...we're both teachers).

I began this blog a year and a half ago as a way to capture snippets of our expat life here in bella Italia. I also wanted to give family and friends back home a glimpse of our lives across the pond. As it turns out, Statcounter tells me that Italian Moments has between 685 and 1,903 unique visitors each month from over 36 countries. And no, I don't have that many friends and family back home...

Some of those visitors stumbled upon my blog when googling things like: italian game shows, easter bunny in italian, and translate happy birthday in italian (all according to the aforementioned Statcounter). Others are probably disappointed in the content of my blog--those would be the visitors who found my blog by googling the following phrases (and this is just a smattering, believe me): naked breasts, italian bare breasts show, well endowed breasts mature, and italian breasts tv. For those of you who have found my blog in this way, I'll save you some time by saying that, yes, I've blogged about breasts, but there ain't no photos. Sorry.

But for those of you who are not hindered by the lack of photographed breasts, I've added a feature where you can sign up to have new posts sent to your email inbox (just look on the left side of the blog for the link).

Starting tomorrow and up until our move, I'll be posting a collection of photos showing what I'll miss (and not miss) about about Italy, so stay tuned!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Soccer, Borders, and Continents

I can't believe it's been almost a month since my last post! School just got out yesterday (I'm a teacher, for those who don't know) so now I feel like I can breathe. And post. Definitely post.

Well, it's that time again, when grown Italian men are glued to the television, and shouts can be heard throughout the city during certain hours of the evening--shouts of joy and anguish, depending. That's right, it's the European Cup Soccer Tournament (if you didn't guess this, don't feel bad...I only know this because I'm married to an Italian).

As I type this, Russia is playing Holland, and they're tied 1 to 1 (note: Holland beat Italy 3-0 at the start of the tournament. Ouch.) So my husband is glued to the television, and I say: "Hey, wait a minute. Is Russia part of Europe?" I think not. Geographically, they're in Asia. At least mostly. Right?

But husband shakes his head. "No. Russia has always played in the European Cup."

I raise an eyebrow. (Actually, I don't know how to raise my eyebrow without pushing it up with my finger. But I've always wished I could. So just humor me...). So I raise an eyebrow and say: "But that doesn't make them European. Russia is in Asia." I thought some more, concentrating on raising my other eyebrow. "Although it sounds strange to say they're Asian. So what are they?"

My husband: "They're in the European Cup, aren't they? They're European."

For him, that's good enough. The European Cup Soccer League (or whatever their governing body is called) has spoken.

I'm not convinced. What do you think?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Books for Bambini

I've been tagged for another meme by a friend and children's writer. Here's what I have to do:
1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people and post a comment to
Vijaya's blog once I've posted my three sentences. (My five people are three of my critique partners, Julie, Kip and Cynthia, and children's writers Mary and Robin.)

Okay, so the book in closest proximity to me is actually a board book for toddlers called Alla Ricerca di Christopher Robin (In Search of Christopher Robin), and since it has a mere 26 pages, I can't exactly tell you what's on page 123.

Next up is a 162-pager, E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a novel for middle grades (ages 9-12). Without further ado, here's what I've found on page 123:

He thought a minute and then said, "I haven't been a tightwad all my life, have I?"

"As long as I've known you," Claudia answered.

"Well, you've known me for as long as I've known me," he said smiling.

I'm in the middle of reading this story--an adventure/mystery about a brother and sister who run away from home and stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. The last time I heard this story was when my all-time favorite teacher, Mrs. Smith, read it aloud to our 4th grade class. That was a looong time ago.

While we're on the topic of children's literature, I thought I'd bend the subject around to Italian children's books. Many books for kids here are stories translated from English into Italian. But even stories I was familiar with as a child take on a different bent when they're translated into Italian. Take Puss in Boots, for example.

Here's the cover:

So far, so good. The story goes along as you'd expect it would...the clever cat promises his master fame and fortune in exchange for a pair of boots. Fair enough. The master gives the cat some boots, and the cat finagles a marriage proposal for his master to the king's daughter. Here's the big moment where the master is asking the king for his daughter's hand:
You've got food, drink, the cat (boots included), the master is smiling, the princess is beaming, and even the king looks pleased. Why is the king happy? Not because his daughter is about to get engaged. Nay. Let's have a closer look:

It says that the king was won over by the good manners and apparent wealth of his daughter's suitor. And he also realized that his daughter was, indeed, in love. Awww.
Then the king decides to announce that he will give his blessing for the wedding.
Here we go:
Al termine del banchetto, dopo aver bevuto cinque o sei bicchieri di vino, gli disse: Caro Marchese, sarei felice di avervi per genero. Vi offro in sposa mia figlia!
This happy Hallmark moment translates as: At the end of the banquet, after having drunk five or six glasses of wine, the king said: "Dear Marchese, I would be happy to have you as a son-in-law. I offer you my daughter in marriage!"
Sniff. It brings a tear to the eye, doesn't it? Through wine, all things are possible, I suppose. Especially in Italian kiddy lit.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It's the Mammas who rule...

In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I'd post this photo I took about two weeks ago at the First Communion of a friend's daughter. Having arrived late (as usual), we spent the whole time at the rear of the church looking at the back of everyone's heads. We'd never been to this particular church before, and I was starting to doubt we were in the right one since I couldn't spot our friends anywhere. After the mass we milled about until we finally found them. Turns out this is why we hadn't spotted them earlier: They had been seated just beyond the front row of pews in these reserved seats. You'll have to click on the photo in order to read the signs, which both say: RISERVATI AI GENITORI which means: Reserved for parents.

Makes sense.

But look at the fine print. In the lower right hand corner of the sign in the front row it says: (mamme)--mothers. And in the lower right hand corner of the second row sign it says: (papa')--fathers.

So they reserved the first row for moms while the dads were relegated to the second row?

I've blogged about the mamma mia phenomenon before, and this is a prime example.

You may think I'm a day late in wishing everyone a Happy Mother's Day.


It doesn't matter when I say it--in Italy, every day is La Festa della Mamma.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

What Italian Papas are looking for...

Here's a lift-the-flap book that my kids have enjoyed over the years. The title means "Search and Find" and readers have to guess what each family member is looking for, then lift the flap to see if they're correct. Here are some samples of what Italians are searching for...

What's Mamma looking for? A little sanity, maybe? (Perhaps that's just me...)

Oh, yes. Her keys! This I can relate to, unfortunately.
What's the Nonna searching for?
No, it's not someone to cook for (at least not this time). It's....her reading glasses! All the better to spy microscopic smudges of mud on her grandchildren's knees and scrub them into submission.
How about the Papa'? He's looking for something under his jacket on the chair. (I know, it's hard to tell that's a jacket, since a chunk has been peeled off by my 2-year-old). Is he searching for his tie? His cell phone? His Blackberry? The newspaper? Or is he simply on his hands and knees praying for a way to pay for his kids' college education?

The answer to all of these is, of course, no. Especially the college one, as university is practically free here. And I've yet to see a Blackberry in Italy, so that's not it, either. No, ladies and gentlemen, this papa' is searching for...drum roll...

His helmet! (cymbal crash).

Italians love their motorscooters, and they're part of the landscape here. In fact, Italian mammas and papas even bring their kids to school on scooters. The kids don their mini-helmets and cling to their parents from behind like baby koalas. I'm dying to get a picture of this, but I never have my camera with me when I see it.

My dad had a motorcycle for a short time when I was a kid. He wanted to take me for a spin around the block, and my mother said absolutely not. I was crushed. In fact, I think she said absolutely not to the whole motorcycle idea, because my dad sold it after a few months.

My husband has offered to take my girls for a spin on the scooter. I said absolutely not. They're crushed.

I said they could ask me again when they're 30.

Monday, April 07, 2008

New uses for a bidet...

In yesterday's post, I told you that we don't use our least not for its intended use. Here are the top four most common uses of the bidet in our house.

Handy-Dandy Bidet Function #1:
toothbrushing spit receptacle...

Handy-Dandy Bidet Function #2:

The Barbie (Sometimes Co-ed) Day Spa... Handy-Dandy Bidet Function #3:

Car/Truck One-Stop Wash...(no drying service available, though. All vehicles will be drip-dried as they are carried throughout the house.)

Handy-Dandy Bidet Function #4:
DVD cleansing station--for all your audio/visual cleanliness needs...

So there you have it.
If you're European, you probably cringed your way through my bidet photo essay. If you're American, you probably thought: Cool! My kids would love this.

Mine sure do.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

What's a bidet, anyway?

If you're not American, you might be wondering: Why would she post a photo of a bidet on her blog? If you are an American (like me), you may be asking yourself: Why is she posting a photo of a mini bathroom sink on her blog? Before I lived in Europe, I'd heard the word bidet (pronounced beh-DAY) but didn't exactly know what it was used for. Okay, I had NO idea what it was used for.

Now I do.


But in our house, the bidet is not used for its intended purpose. In fact, it's been taken over completely by my three kids, who have come up with...shall we say...unique uses for the bidet.

Tune in tomorrow for the photos...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Buona Festa del Papa'

As promised, here's a photo of the gift my third grader made at school for Father's Day:

Yup. It's a bottle of wine, with the label designed by my daughter. For those who may remember, my daughter's class took a field trip last fall where they learned how wine is made. They actually took off their shoes and socks and smushed the grapes themselves. That was in September. Six months later...a bottle of wine!

It's not half bad, either (as long as you block out the image of all those toes in your wine...)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tap, tap, tap... this thing on? (blows into microphone)...testing...testing....

I'm back, and my apologizes for waiting so long to post. All is well, I've just been busy with writing assignments/tasks/revisions, and I've neglected my blog, once again. My mother thought her computer wasn't working because she kept getting the "same old post" and another friend (Hi, Sharon!) emailed me asking whether or not I still existed, so I thought I'd check in.

My last post was about Carnevale, and I fully intended to post more pictures, but all of the parades, festivities, etc. were doused with freezing rain. Which can happen when you schedule a major holiday with outdoor festivities in...February. I mean, come on, people.

But as tomorrow is Father's Day here in Italy, my next post will be a photo of the gift my third grader made at school for her papa'. It's not your regular pencil holder/tie organizer/bar-b-que apron kind of gift. Oh, nay. You'll never guess. ;-)

More soon...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Carnevale has arrived!

Carnevale season began this past Thursday, but the costume frenzy began in mid-January. If you're Italian (child or adult), your mother or nonna (grandmother) might make your costume. Or you could buy one at a store like the one we visited last weekend.

You could start with a mask:
Add a hat:

Or go all out from head (note the wigs in the background) to toe:

Here's the line-up of children's costumes:

A fireworks display...

...and kilos of confetti and string--enough to make you thankful you're not an Italian street cleaner.

This will be the 7th Carnevale I've spent in Italy, and I must say that this next item was a new one for me:

If you can't make out the writing, it says: Hill Billy Teeth. Do Italians really know what a Hill Billy is? I asked my Italian husband what he thought Hill Billy meant, and he said: "It's the guy's name, right?" (In Italy, people often introduce themselves and sign their names with their last name first, then first name. As in: "Hi, I'm Hill, Billy. Nice to meet ya.")


I'm guessing the store won't be selling out of this item anytime soon.

I'll post some more Carnevale photos later this week.

P.S. Today is the first blogiversary of Italian Moments!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Guten Tag from...Italy, of course!

A few weekends ago we went to a village called Sesto. It's nestled in the Italian Alps (Dolomites) in a region called Alto Adige. Also known as South Tyrol. Also known as Bolzen. Oh, and Bolzano.

Confused? You're not alone. One skiiable mountain divides this Italian region from Austria. After WWI, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire lost this zone to Italy, even though over 90% of its residents spoke German. And still do. They speak German at home, in school, in shops, and will switch to German-accented Italian only when pressed. Signs are both in German and Italian. Here's a local bakery run by the Happacher family. Note which language takes first billing.Reflected in the window is one of those gingerbread-looking houses that are scattered up the mountain-sides and throughout the villages of this region. (It appears that I'm quite the photographer here, doesn't it? But I must say that I didn't even realize there was anything reflected in the window until I looked at the photo a few days later...).

Here's the house where we always stay when we go to Sesto:

The paintings around the windows are also very typical here. Here's a close-up of the front door:

Two things to notice here:

1. Above the door, in German, it says that the house was built in 1698, and rennovated in 1973.

2. The chalk writing on the top of the right-hand door was for the Epiphany--villagers dressed as the Three Wise Men come to everyone's door and leave their initials: G+M+B surrounded by the numbers of the new year, 2008.
It feels like you've stepped into a story book. With good food.

Skiing is the main industry in the winter, and that's just what we did. Although, I use the term "we" loosely. My husband learned to ski in this village when he was a boy, he skis like poetry-in-motion. Whereas I ski more like a third-grader's-essay-on-momentum-in-motion. Which means I hang with our two-year-old while our girls ski with my husband. Usually. Here's a shot from the gondola:

This is my favorite part of skiing...the rifugo at the top of the mountain where you can drink hot chocolate or warm vin brule.

They also had this snow sculpture at the top next to a playground (My kids are the three dressed in snowpants and jackets):

Arrivederci...and Auf Viedersehen!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In bocca al lupo, times thirteen!

The Italian translation of "good luck" is buona fortuna, but that's not what most Italians say. If I wanted to wish you luck here in Italy, I'd say: In bocca al lupo, which literally means "in the mouth of the wolf." Then you would say: "Crepi!" which means "Die!"

I's a rather strange comeback considering I'm wishing you luck, isn't it? But what we're really saying is this:

Me: You don't really need luck, because you're the kind of person who would come out on top, even if you were to find your head in the jaws of a slobbering, extra mean wolf with bad breath (okay, so I embellished that last part a bit). But just in case, good luck, anyway.

You: If I ever find myself with my head in the mouth of a wolf, may the wolf die instead of me!

It's a bit gothic as far as sentiments go.

But, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish Jay Asher good luck tomorrow! Jay wrote a fantastic book for teens called Thirteen Reasons Why, and tomorrow the the American Library Association will announce the winner and runners-up for the Michael L. Printz award for excellence in Young Adult Literature.

No matter the outcome tomorrow, kudos go to Jay's book for opening up dialogues in schools across the country about teen suicide prevention (check out this latest post on the blog he writes with two other children's authors, Robin Mellom and Eve Porinchak, called the The Disco Mermaids here).

So here's to you, Jay: IN BOCCA AL LUPO! :-)

UPDATE: Thirteen Reasons Why was chosen for three incredible lists by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA):

* Best Books for Young Adults
* Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
* Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults

Congratulazioni, Jay! If you were here, Italian social norms would require that you take everyone out for a celebratory drink, so be glad you're in the U.S.!

(See how effortlessly I weave in children's literature with lessons on life in Italy?? Very smooth.)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Aaaaand it's a wrap.

The holiday season finally ended here in Italy with the Epiphany on January 6. On the night of the 5th, a good witch called La Befana visits Italian bambini as they sleep, leaving gifts. In case you've lost count, that's three--count 'em--three gift-getting occasions for Italian kids in the space of one month (including San Nicolo on December 6, and Christmas). Italian parents are now officially out of money.

If you haven't heard the legend of the Befana, you might want to check out Tomie dePaola's picture book here. But basically, it's the story of a cranky old lady who watches the procession of the Three Kings pass by her door. When a boy tells her that they're on their way to visit a baby king, she decides she doesn't want to miss out. She follows the northern star, but by the time she gets there, the holy family is long gone. (Obviously, showing up late has been a recurring theme in Italian culture for thousands of years...).

Italian children don't put out stockings for Babbo Natale (Santa Claus), but they do for the Befana.

According to legend, the Befana is supposed to sweep up before she leaves. I'm not sure what type of broom she's using, but it's the kind that leaves all the big dust bunnies behind. I'd like to see her update to one of those fancy vacuum cleaners that vacuums up the dust and washes the floors at the same time. Maybe even a rider vacuum (do they have those?).

She's only supposed to sweep the rooms where the children sleep, though. That's January 5, I'll have one kid sleep in the kitchen, one the living room, and the other in the garage.

How about you--are you glad the holidays are over?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ringing in a Super New Year

Whether your New Year's Eve outfit is a ballgown or a pair of sweats, your underwear should be red, according to Italian tradition. Apparently, it brings luck. It's probably safe to say that quite a few red-underwear-clad Italians did, indeed, get lucky on New Year's Eve.

I'm thinking Superman must have been Italian--perhaps his real name was Clarko Kento?

P.S. Speaking of super men, Happy Birthday to my Dad today!

Tanti Auguri is like saying Best Wishes, and Italians use it for all occasions. They actually say it more often than Buon Compleanno, which means Happy Birthday. In fact, the Italian Happy Birthday song goes like this:

Tanti Auguri a te,

Tanti Auguri a te

Tanti Auguri a Dad (this line doesn't flow as well, does it?)

Tanti Auguri a te!

Happy Birthday, Dad!