Friday, December 30, 2011

An Italian NYE - Cenone di San Silvestro

Believe it or not... this will be my first year celebrating a true Italian NYE dinner, or as the Italians call it "Cenone di San Silvestro". Traditionally, everyone goes to have dinner with their families where they make Cotechino con Lenticchie (Cotechino with lentils). Cotechino is a fresh sausage made from pork, fat back, and pork rind which is flavorful and tender. Yummm... can't wait to try it. Most people have dinner with the family whether at home or reserving at a restaurant and ring in the new year there. Then, the youngins go out to the clubs afterwards. Talk about knowing how to party! Normally you ring in the new year and are already drunk and done with the night... or at least I always was. =) My husband and I always either spent it by ourselves or with friends. This will be nice to be with family with baby and all now.

Let's hope 2012 is a good year for everyone! This year was rough for my friends and family and all around the world with the economic crisis, thankfully we were able to welcome Antonio into the world which definitely sugar coated the bad.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Vaccinations in Italia

If you happen to be raising a family in Italy, then one of the most common questions or concerns you may have are vaccinations for your baby. They are quite similar to the U.S. You will have them at 2 months, then 4 months, then 11 months, etc. However, the one difference is that these vaccinations are mandatory and administered by the City Hall. If you do not get these vaccinations done for your baby, the carabinieri (police) will come to your house. Crazy right? In America, many parents are now deciding to do alternate vaccination schedules and delaying certain vaccinations with all the controversy that has been going on about side effects, autism, etc. Although these alternate vaccination schedules are controversial in itself, Americans do have the right to discuss it with their pediatricians. Not in Italy....

As for the experience I had in bringing my baby.... we had to take him to the City Hall where there is a room that the nurse goes to administer the vaccinations. One morning in the week is dedicated to giving babies vaccinations. Monday from 10:30 t0 12:30. It is unorganized and simply disappointing. I get there to be surrounded by about 15 other parents and babies waiting as well. We are stuck in this small hallway and outdoors where it was cold and rainy. Once it was our turn, we went in, to what seemed like a jury. A table with 4 women sat there and I was asked to be seated. They took my baby's medical records to fill out and asked me a couple questions like if I breastfeed. Then they put baby on the table and listen to his heartbeat and then give him the vaccination on his thigh. Then we are asked to go outside once again and wait 15 minutes before leaving to make sure there are no side effects.

I don't expect it to be a day at the spa but a proper waiting room, a list for the order we go in, and seats aren't much to ask for, right?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wanting My American Christmas in Italy

I am all about the Italian Christmas and decorating my balcony with my Santa Claus climbing up the railing but I have been on the hunt for Christmas stockings and they are no where to be found! With baby having his first Christmas, I wanted to do the traditional American thing, and have a stocking with each of our names on them to hang at home. But, mission not accomplished. =( Every time I ask around, they say I have to wait for "Befana" on January 6th when they sell stockings... but those are stockings filled with candies for the kids. I guess our personalized stockings will have to wait another year until I can get them in America. =(

If you are in Italy, and have found someone who sells them, please let me know!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Being Thankful on Thanksgiving

Thank you God for my Piccolo Grande Miracolo

It's been a while since I have blogged with how crazy my life has been with work and baby. But, I had to take a minute to just write what I am greatful, which is a lot...

Thank you for my wonderful big family back home who can be a soap opera sometimes but always loving and never boring. I love how big we are and are still growing and there is never silence in the house when we are together. =)

Thank you for giving me a second family here in Italy who loves me like I have been in their lives forever.

Thank you for my husband who has given me an unconditional love that I have never imagined and constantly shows me how much he loves me every day.

Thank you for my precious little Antonio who has brought me a joy beyond words and is a true miracle.

Thank you for my friends who are there for me and make me laugh.

Thank you for giving me things to laugh about.

Thank you for giving me a job in such an awful time of crisis.

Thank you for the clothes on my back that keeps me warm.

Thank you for giving us a roof over our head.

Thank you for the food on the table every day.

Thank you for keeping my feet steady on the ground.

Thank you for my two feet...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dear New, Expecting Mothers

This blog goes out to all the beautiful women out there who are expecting their first baby. From one mother to another, I hope this blog will give you some uplifting spirits. When I found out I was pregnant, I did everything possible to get ready for the big change in my life. I read all the books for how to prepare for baby - how to take care of my body while trying to get pregnant, then it was the books while pregnant and what to expect, and then the books on baby's first two years. I knew that I couldn't map out my birthing plan and expect it to go the way I expected but I surely wanted to be prepared for everything the best I could. The thing is, these books tell you what to prepare for with sicknesses and how to bathe baby and what not but not for the real emotions that come into play.

So you probably are hearing from everyone now, "Get as much sleep as possible", "Enjoy your alone time before baby", etc. And of course you know this and will take advantage of these things, but it will still not prepare you for what awaits.

The first month is hard, period. Unless you have a nanny and had an easy labor and are superwoman, the first month is hard. Not only is your body still recovering, especially from a c-section which I had to have (already the first thing that didn't go as planned), but you are exhausted, not feeling yourself, not able to do your normal chores, have lack of sleep, and possibly going through the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding like me. Nonetheless, it is no walk in the park.

So where is the bright side?

When your loved ones promise you "it will get better". Because it does. And although you still have to rough it out until baby finally latches on, sleeps through the night and stomach matures - all you can do is take it one day at a time and let your baby cheer you up and make your heart melt with their smile.

Each day baby changes but things have gotten much easier from the first two months. I thought falling in love was the best thing that has happened to me but there is also nothing like the love of a child. There is just so much to look forward to and so many milestones. Keep the faith.

My new, strong, beautiful, multi-tasking, invincible mothers, "It will get better," and then ... it just keeps getting better.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ode to the Scooter

As you all know, scooters are one of the most common modes of transportation here in Italy. I've had the fortune of driving through the tuscan hills daily on a scooter with my hubby and it really is the best way to travel around town with all the pain of parking. I wanted to share my funny encounters I've had that would only happen in Italy.

These are moments where I really wish I had a camera:

- My husband had just came back from a mission and his new place didn't have a tv so he went out to get one with his scooter. If you can do the math, bringing home a tv on a scooter isn't the best idea. Here he is, with a 27 inch tv (not flat screen), he had to remove the box and put the tv in front of him. He could barely reach the handles to maneuver the scooter but managed to get home safely.

- We were driving in Naples when I see this guy drive by on his scooter with a large size luggage that he just bought from Carpisa placed right behind him on the seat and scotch-taped around his waist. Pretty clever? hehe

- In our home town, I see a man driving by with his scooter and a tall 4-feet green plant in front of him and he is seeing the road through the leaves.

Have you had any funny encounters? Of course this would never happen in America and would be frowned upon.

Only in Italy....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Finding Faith in Italia

We are planning on baptizing Tonino soon and have run into some roadblocks. Since my husband and I did not get married in church and got married at city hall (comune), a civil ceremony, our marriage isn't recognized by the church and therefore Tonino cannot be baptized until I can show that I accept that he will be raised Catholic and I will not interfere. I am totally accepting that and want that for him but my word isn't enough. My husband and I have to get married again in church in a "matrimonio misto" - a mixed religion wedding since I am not Catholic. I am learning so much but never realized how strict the church is although I shouldn't be surprised.

So, to get married here, normally takes months and months of courses! The priest said for us it should be starting now until Easter! And this isn't counting the courses we have to take to have Antonio baptized which is another 2-3 months. Since we told him we are planning to go to LA at the end of the year, he said that he would work it out to meet more times a week and get us married and baby baptized by the end of the year.

This is gonna make it wedding number 3 for us... fun right??? =) I really can't complain. It seems like such a chore but I think it's kind of nice, kind of like we are renewing our vows and sharing the special occasion with our baby as he gets baptized at the same time.

Anyways, we met with the couple who we are doing the courses with this past weekend and my husband and I are really enjoying it. We are going through everything that is said during the wedding and they are really making sure we understand all the vows and words the priest will be reading. Nonetheless, we have dived into the Bible to really analyze it all. My husband is appreciating it because he doesn't really remember much of what he learned as a child. For me, I am enjoying it because I am learning so much as well and it's important to me that I am well informed for Antonio.

On a religious note, and I have never been the religious type, I am finding faith and embracing the Catholic religion. I knew that my life would change moving to Italy, but I never expected how much it has influenced me spiritually as well. These next couple of weeks will be very interesting to say the least.

If you have moved to Italy, have you found yourself being more influenced by religion which is quite hard to ignore here? How has it changed your outlook on life if so?

Monday, September 26, 2011

La Dolce Vita: The Perfect Pizza

One of the best things I love about Italy is undoubtedly the food. But more specifically, the pizza. I thought I was in love with the pizza here when I lived in Siena, but there is no comparison to where pizza originated from... southern Italy. I think everyone has their own taste and preference to the type of pizza they like... for Americans - its about what toppings, thin crust or thick crust, deep dish or traditional. For Italians, it's about the dough and the way it is cooked, and of course what is on it.

My rule of thumb in judging pizza is trying the Margherita everywhere. You get to savor every aspect of it without anything being masked by another ingredient. In this case - the dough, tomato sauce, and the mozzarella.

It's been great down south, there are sooo many pizzerias in our home town as well as neighboring towns that I have been able to eat so many different kinds. My husband and I have made it a hobby in trying them and rating them on a scale of 1 to 10. Of course, nothing gets a 10 because who knows if we will find something even yummier.

Well, this past weekend we tried a new one that just opened in our town, and O.M.G. it has made it's way to number one on our list! The pizza is very thin, the mozzarella is divine, and it just melts in your mouth - just the way I like it. It is simply heaven in your mouth... MmmmMmm che buona! This is coming from a blogger that has tried Da Michele in Naples, voted the best pizza in the world, as well as Trionon across the street from it, and Antonio and Antonio also well known in Naples, but the best pizza I have eaten so far is 3 minutes away from my doorstep... oh sweet heaven.

So, if you are ever in my neighborhood, which may be unusual, you must stop by Coco's in Vitulazio. And if you are here, you must also try my, previously first place, and now second place, favorite pizzeria - Vecchio Frantoio's in Bellona, our neighboring town, where I always eat the Diavola.

Oh La Dolce Pizza.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reminiscing - My first weeks in Italy...

The month of September marks eight years since I met my husband and three years since our wedding in Siena... how time flies! It still feels like yesterday that I met him in Piazza del Campo in Siena and we started our adventure together. When I think back, it always boggles my mind how we were able to communicate and how new I was to Italy. I wouldn't leave the house with my dictionary in my purse and always managed to take it out at some point in the bar for at least the first month we were together. =)

The first two mistakes I made as an American that still makes me laugh to this day and yet I still feel isn't wrong...

1. We were in a bar and my husband, well boyfriend back then, orders a little glass full of rum and a little glass full of pear juice. To my fellow Americans, what do you see this as? A shot of rum and pear juice as a chaser, right??? So what do I do in my full American-ness... take the shot of rum and chase it with the pear juice in a couple seconds. I look to my husband and he's just staring at me as he sips his rum.... yeh... they like to sip their hard alcohol as a digestive. Lesson learned on an Italian way but to this day, I still can't sip my rum or vodka, and I don't like grappa.

2. Another night, we went to a bar around 5pm to get coffee and my husband asks me what I want. He was getting a coffee and I asked for a Cappuccino. He looks at me weird and says, "A cappuccino?" And of course the barista is looking at me weird as well and I have no clue why. Then my husband explains to me that Italians only drink Cappuccino in the morning for breakfast. Well if I can have my eggs for dinner then I can have my cappuccino for an evening drink as well! Can I be more American?

These were lessons I learned in my first weeks in Italy and to this day, I have learned many more and have grown accustomed to these "customs", BUT I still don't think it is a sin! =) Have you shared these mistakes with me???

Friday, September 9, 2011

La Dolce Vita: All Kinds of Love

I've been blessed with the love of my family, the love of my husband, the love of my Tonino, and now with the love that my husband's family has for Tonino. I miss my family much and can't wait for them to meet Tonino but have been fortunately overwhelmed by the love that my husband's family has for Tonino. It is truly touching and heartwarming. They fight over who gets to hold him and keep track of how much time the other has with him. They shower him with gifts and kisses. It makes me so happy to see how their faces just light up when they see him. And they want to eat him up just as much as I do! =) There is no doubt that Tonino not only has brought joy to me and my husband but to our entire family and has made us even more tight-knit than before. I have become very close to them and even more so now.

I have to admit I was worried at first. I thought they might be over at the house too often and we wouldn't have privacy because that's just how Italians are. You are always welcome in the house. But I am grateful for it. I need as much help I can get and it's nice for them to come over and give me a hand - whether it be watching Antonio for me, or even cleaning without even being asked. The heart of an Italian, or at least Lino's family, does good deeds without expecting anything in return. They love to give, give and give some more. Wouldn't the world be so different if there were more people like them? I am so grateful for my family back home and for my family here in Italy as well.

Today marks the 8 year anniversary of when Lino and I first met, 3 years of marriage in 2 weeks, and baby's 2 month birthday. La Dolce Vita...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Benvenuto a Motherhood

This blog goes out to all the mothers that know exactly what I am talking about and those who I can now relate to....

Motherhood has been quite... interesting... I knew there would be lack of sleep and exhaustion but you really don't know what it feels like until you experience it yourself. Tonino is going on three weeks soon and I am slowly trying to find time for what use to be my normal routine. One thing that has truly changed is that I must rush through everything now... whether it be eating super fast in case he wakes up or my infamous epic emails have turned into bullet points... for example, here are the things that new motherhood has given me bullet point format =) ... I hope other mothers can appreciate it. =)

- always having milk spit-up stains on every article of clothing I have
- never being able to leave the house with out a burpie cloth in close reach
- boobs never seem to be the same size anymore
- mommy brains beat out preggie brains on the ditzy scale hands down
- I am super happy if I can get 4 hours of sleep at night... interrupted sleep of course between feedings
- I think that I can fall asleep at any time of the day if I just close my eyes

But through all these tiny, insignificant inconveniences, it is ALL worth it...

- I can stare at Tonino all day long
- I can't get over how innocent babies are
- people say it's gas when a baby smiles but I truly believe he is smiling
- I love his drunk off milk look when he is full
- those big eyes are going steal a million hearts and have already stolen mine
- I love seeing my husband with him
- I am cherishing every day as he changes and grows

We've got a great adventure ahead of us my little sweetie pie.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

è nato Antonio!

After nine long months of waiting anxiously for our little miracle, he has finally arrived. The whole experience was one of a kind, that is all I can say. Can't get into it right now since my life has been turned upside down but wanted to share the wonderful news. Still not sure if baby looks more Italian or Chinese but one thing is for sure, he is truly a gift from God.

Loving him, loving our family, loving how my husband is with him. His nickname for Tonino is "prosciutto"... doesn't get any more special and Italian than that. =)

Monday, July 4, 2011

L'Ispirazione d'Italia (The Inspiration of Italy)

When I first made the decision to move to Italy, all I thought about were the sacrifices I had to make. Everything I was leaving and everything I was going to miss. But in my mission to optimism and seeing the glass half full, I have to thank Italy and my husband for allowing so many other opportunities to be opened up to me. I have made my dream come true of starting my own design company ( and am doing what I love the most in the comforts of my own home. In addition, this allowed me to be discovered and signed to a publishing company designing inspirational and typographical art for major chain stores like Kirklands, Wal-Mart, and many others.

Moreover, the environment, people and food have inspired many of my art pieces as well. Here are just a couple recent ones I have designed that are "Italia-inspired"...

If you like my artwork, you can check out more of it at and view my portfolio from my biography. Thanks in advance for checking me out!

Vuoi fare Americano?

From the moment I moved to Italy, I have been intrigued by the stereotypes that Italians have put on Americans. The most apparent one is how they love using the phrase, "Vuoi fare Americano?" ("You want to do as the Americans do?"), when someone spends a lot of money on something. At first it threw me off guard that they have that stereotype and used it quite often and loosely. But, I quickly realized there is truth in it and couldn't deny that we spend our money much more freely. I never decided whether it was a good thing or bad thing and if I fell into that stereotype. Part of me fought to not be a part of it for its negative connotations, but other parts of me realized it was inevitable for me to fall into the group and that there were certain luxuries I did enjoy.

Which brings me to the current decision I need to make. The private clinic that I will be giving birth in, as well as most of the normal hospitals here, have four beds to a room. This, I am not use to. I didn't even enjoy having ONE other person in the room when I was in the hospital back in the States.

This brings me to the dilemma of how I will be portrayed if I ask for a private room. The conclusions that can be drawn of me are: (1) Voglio fare Americano ( I am doing as the Americans do and want to spend more money on a private room); (2) I am being anti-social (My husband's sisters looooved having other patients and families around because everyone would converse with each other and it made it more fun and like a party); or (3) I am a more private person and believe that this is a very intimate and personal experience and would like to be only around those who are dear to me and have some peace and quiet if I am in agonizing pain or just need to get some rest.

Of course, the latter is my reason. Unfortunately, I am the type of person that cares about what others think and don't want anyone thinking the first or second. I've realized that I don't want them to think I am the type of person that spends money frivolously because they are extremely down to earth and aren't those types. I think they know that I am not that type as well and definitely spend my money responsibly. But, at the same time, they may not understand why I would want to spend more money to be alone.

This brings me to the second stereotype placed on Americans... or more so... the stereotype put on Italians. There is no doubt, Italians are much more talkative and friendly, especially in the small towns. They are hospitable and can carry on a conversation with you even if they don't know you. It's endearing and I have always admired that quality about them. However, as an American who lives in a big city, I have grown accustomed to being a more private person when it comes to neighbors. I never talked to my neighbor unless I got their mail by accident or they needed to move their car. We are so occupied in our own personal lives and work that we hardly take the time to care to work up a conversation.

I think I have gotten better with being more social and learning the Italian way since I have moved here, but there are definitely a lot of times where I just want to be in my own world and do my thing. Does this make me anti-social? Yeh, I am pretty sure it does. But, I just think that we deserve to enjoy private moments as well as a form of relaxation. Again, two different cultures and definitely one of the struggles I have had. I see the good and bad in both and think it is possible to find a happy medium.

Nonetheless, the decision still has to be made... In actuality, I think all three conclusions will be drawn about me. I am a more private person who doesn't want to be around strangers and would prefer paying more money for a private room to avoid the chaos of other patients and their guests whom I don't know. Doesn't sound too bad right? After all, I will be there to give birth to our little miracle and can ultimately decide what is best.

What do you think? Am I over-analyzing the situation? Do you agree with the stereotypes?

*Below is the private clinic I will be giving birth at... Thank goodness for new, clean hospitals. =)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Bright Side of Laundry

One of the adjustments I had to make in moving to Italy was hanging my clothes to dry. This may seem trivial because it is just one of those things that we take for granted, but when you go from having your clothes dry and smelling bounce-fresh in 50 minutes to having to clip each item to a clothesline and waiting for hours for it to dry (days in the winter!), it did not make me a happy camper. Nowadays, I have accepted the "way of life" and realize stressing over it or complaining wasn't going to get it dry any sooner.

Moreover, through my recent success of becoming more optimistic and "glass half full" girl with the help of our arriving baby, I found the bright side of it! I did my first load of baby laundry just last week and was dreading the fact that I would have to hang all of baby's precious little clothes to dry and not having it soft and warm out of the dryer. To my pleasant surprise, it got me in such a good mood. Just look at the tiny clothes being hung dry! Soooooo cute! Okay, so maybe because this is the first time I am doing it and in total baby mode right now, but I could not help but fall in love with everything I was hanging in its adorable tinyness. Just look at the picture below.... aren't things so much cuter small? I just had to stop and admire the view and appreciate the moment I had of baby clothes bliss that I wouldn't have experienced if I just threw them in the dryer. =) And of course capture the moment on camera to remember it.

Just another reminder to always try to look on the bright side and appreciate the "little" things. =)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Life As I Know It Now

Well, I am definitely on my homestretch and I have to share that these past 35 weeks so far have been nothing less than magical. Magical is truly the word. It still blows my mind I have a baby growing inside of me, a baby that is definitely having a ball wiggling around now and I love every second of it. I look back at the time when we were talking about having babies and questioning if I was ready and my biggest concerns were being emotional and not being able to deal with being pregnant away from home. I know that this is my home now and my husband and I have definitely created a sanctuary for ourselves but I still call LA my home as well because my family and friends are there. It still saddens me when I realize that they won't be able to come to the hospital and meet our baby for the first time or they won't see him in the first couple of months where he will change the most. As my mother-in-law says, "9 months, 9 different faces," which really is true.

Fortunately, with help from my family back home and my family here, it really has been a smoother pregnancy than I ever imagined up until this point (knock on wood that it will stay smooth =)). Thanks to technology, I get to video chat with my family and not feel so far away from them. It really does make a huge difference! Thanks to their generosity, we received a huge care package for baby with all things, cute, tiny, soft, useful, and American! Although they are all for baby, it is a wonder how it has helped me feel closer to home and not have to miss the products and quality at least. =) And thanks to my husband's family, they have been soooo sweet and supportive. It warms my heart and actually overwhelms me with love to see how excited they are for baby's arrival. Their faces light up when they see me, immediately ask how I am doing and touch my stomach, and my little nephews give a million kisses and caresses to baby already - it's the cutest thing!

We are blessed. I am thankful everyday that I have been able to look at the cup half full (when I am known to be a pessimistic person) and enjoy every little detail of this pregnancy from the love I have for baby already, from the love and bliss I have with my husband and the love we receive from our families and friends. I thank God everyday. I know things won't stay this way, and our lives will be turned upside down with baby, but I am up for the challenge and ready for what adventures we come across as our marriage has already been such an adventure. Our love conquered all obstacles, we had the wedding of our dreams, we are expecting a precious little baby now, and will soon start a family of our own. It's all I could ever ask for.

Thank you to everyone who has shared in our blessed moments.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Baked Zucchini Fries

It's that time of the year where all the best vegetables and fruits are back in season! Delicious, organic bell peppers, eggplants, zucchini, and tomatoes. Refreshing apricots, plums, baby pears, and watermelon.... MmmmmMmm already makes my mouth water just thinking about it. In this hot and humid weather, all you want to do is eat something fresh and it's also great that the prices are much cheaper and you get more bang for your buck.

My mother-in-law has a friend who has a field of vegetables and fruits, so she often just gives my mother-in-law tons of vegetables for free. Fortunately, those get passed on to us and we know that they are completely organic. However, sometimes we have so many that I have to think of new ways to cook them and get through them before they go bad. But I'm not complaining! =)

Here is a delicious zucchini recipe I came across that was so yummy and healthy.

Baked Zucchini Fries

Servings: 4

3 zucchini cut into long thin sticks like fries
2 eggs - use only egg white
black pepper
garlic powder
olive oil

1. In one plate, mix the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, parmesan, oregano and garlic powder.
2. In another plate, beat the egg whites.
3. Dip the sticks of zucchini in the beaten egg white.
4. Then dip the zucchini into the breadcrumb mixture.
5. On a baking sheet, drizzle a little olive oil and then place the breaded zucchini sticks onto the sheet with spacing between each one.
6. Place in oven for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown. (Flip them half way to make sure both sides get nice and golden)
7. Then eat up while they are hot! If you like your sauces, you can dip them in your favorite marinara sauce.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Beautiful Pietralcina

This past weekend my husband and I decided to go to Pietralcina to see where Padre Pio, a well known Saint here in Italy, use to live. It is a small town in the province of Benevento and in our region of Campania. It has become a tradition for us every year nowto go to San Giovanni Rotondo in the region of Puglia where Padre Pio's body now rests but we decided to see his birthplace this time around before the arrival of our baby.

This town was absolutely beautiful. I didn't expect it at all. Firstly, the drive there was magnificent. We drove along the fields and hillsides and although nothing compares to the Tuscan hillsides I lived in and fell in love with and am a little biased, they were just as beautiful and breathtaking. This town was so cute and the small streets and white cobblestones reminded me of Capri. It certainly had character. It was so interesting to see how homes were built back then and still plenty of them now that have never been remodeled. You can have your one bedroom in one room and then have to go outside and downstairs for your bathroom or kitchen. There was a lot of separation and connected rooms were uncommon. It is also amazing to see how simple life was back then by just seeing how minimal their decor was. It was actually really refreshing to see. It was great to get away from materialism and just immerse myself in the simple life back then and nature.

I have surprisingly become more religious since living in Italy, partly because religion is all around us here, then partly because of my husband and his family, and mostly because I think I always needed to find some peace with the help of faith. I have been so blessed these past years that it has really put a lot more in perspective for me. Thus, I love the fact that I get to visit these little towns that may not be major foreign tourist spots but definite hidden treasures that the Italians know about. It truly is a different experience being a resident here rather than a tourist. There is a much more in depth appreciation for the culture, people and traditions compared to just scraping the surface as a tourist with limited time. It is truly a great learning experience.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Click it or No Ticket... No Worries...

So here in Italy, the laws of the seat belt are a little different from the U.S., lets just say a little more lenient. Basically, only the driver and front passenger are required to put their seat belt on. The passengers in the back are not required. Just up until recently have law enforcement cracked down more on the rule and have been giving out tickets. I think about two years ago, everyone was still not using seat belts and thought I was so weird when I put mine on. But now, just out of the fear of getting a ticket, and NOT for security, are they being more conscious about it.

One of the things that bothered me the most was seeing kids just free, standing up in the car, in the back seat or front. Or, when I see an infant in the arms and lap of a mother in the car. It almost makes me sound like a prude here in Italy, but how programmed are we in the States to buckle up and definitely belt down our children in their proper car seats at all times in the car? Sure, also out of the fear of getting a ticket and obeying the law, but mostly for security - especially for our children. For some reason, Italians just don't really account for security which is ironic with how crazy they can drive.

Which brings me to the experience I had this weekend. Italy has been enforcing a lot more police checkpoints in the past couple years. Basically, they will stop random cars passing by to just check that you have a driver's license, are registered, and have insurance. These aren't sobriety checkpoints, but of course, they scope out your car and you for any suspicious activity. When the cop came up to our car, he asked my husband for his paperwork and then said to me, "You know, you don't have to wear a seatbelt if you are pregnant. It's not required if it bothers you." Which in turn, my husband says, "Oh it's okay, we are use to just putting it on now." He checks our paperwork and then we are good to go....

I am not required to put on my seatbelt when I am not only protecting my own safety but now the safety of my unborn child as well? No worries if I risk flying through the windshield, as long as I am comfortable? All I have to do is put the seat belt below my belly and I am fine - a seat belt has never bothered me since I have been pregnant. However, the Italian law enforcement has graciously waived this requirement for pregnant women. Again, who cares about safety, as long as you are comfy, no matter what may happen.

Excuse my cynicism but it still boggles my mind and although I know there are a lot of countries that are still lenient on the seat belt rule, this is not one of the things that I will just settle into and go with the flow on. Unfortunately, I don't think this is the last time I will hear this from someone, especially when I decide to buckle down my child in the carseat for a five minute car ride. They may think I am a little uptight or ridiculous since it is out of the norm here but safety comes first and this is one thing I will not do as the Italians do.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Good Eats: Italy - 1, U.S. - 0

My husband's first American banquet dining experience was at our wedding and although he loved the food, he was a little dismayed that there wasn't more. We actually did the traditional amount of servings and I didn't really understand what was missing. We had the cocktail hour with a wide range of h'ordeurves, salad, first entree, second entree, two sides to go with the entrees, bread, and two desserts. Sounds sufficient, right?

Wrong.... I just attended our niece's First Communion and we had a party afterwards at a restaurant. Needless to say, I quickly realized what my husband meant and how Italians have put us to shame when it comes to true dining. First of all, we started eating around 2 pm and finished around 7 pm. Five hours of eating! And apparently, weddings go on for longer and there is more food! They normally go from 2 pm to 10 pm... can you imagine 8 hours of eating? Italians definitely know how to celebrate with good food, good drinks and good company.

Here is a total rundown of the menu and click on the pic above for visuals:

APERITIVI (Appetizers before main Appetizers)
- Spumante (Sparkling Dessert Wine)
- Aperitivo misto (A mixed plate of snacks - chips, topped bread slices, and pretzels)

ANTIPASTI (Appetizers)
- Antipasto Mare e Monti (A "sea and mountain" appetizer plate consisting of salame, prosciutto, sausage, and seafood salad)
- Bruschetta
- Fritelle (fritters)

PRIMI PIATTI (First Plates - Pasta)
- Scialiatelli ai Frutti di Mare (A thick hand-made pasta with seafood in tomato sauce)
- Trofie alla Norcina (Pasta with ground beef tomato sauce and mushrooms)

SECONDI PIATTI (Second Plates - Meat)
- Grigliata di Pesce (A mixed plate of grilled fish)
- Bistecca con patate fritte (Steak and fries)
* Sorbetto (sorbet) was served in between the fish and steak to clean our palates

CONTORNI (Side Dishes)
- Verdure Grigliate (Grilled vegetables)
- Insalata (salad)
- Mozzarella Tricolore (Fresh mozzarella with cherry tomatoes and arugula)

DOLCI (Dessert)
- Compose di Frutta (A mixed plate of fruits topped with ice-cream)
- Torta Pan di Spagna (Chocolate sponge cake)
- Spumante (Sparkling Dessert Wine)

BEVANDE (Drinks)
- Water
- Sparkling Water
- White Wine
- Red Wine
- Coca-Cola
- Coffee
- Amaro (Hard liquor like grappa to digest)

Aren't you full just reading it all? Can you believe it? And to top it off, every plate was a full serving, not just a small tasting. And, it was all buonissimo!!!! I still can't believe how much food there was and how weddings can have even more. Apparently, at weddings, there is an even larger variety of antipasti. You can get full off the appetizers alone! The biggest difference and how Italians can brave through all this food are the pauses in between them. They don't come out one immediately after the other. There is a good amount of time broken in between for smoking, bathroom and mingling breaks. Hence, a great mixture of good food and good company.

Now, I know exactly what my husband meant. =) Gotta love the Italians. If there is one thing they are good at, it's cuisine. Okay, three things... cuisine, drinking, and knowing how to relax. =)

MmmmMMmmm.... oh how good food makes for a happy gal. =)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Piccolo Grande Preggars in Italy

One of the biggest concerns expats have when moving to another country is the healthcare. I have talked about healthcare in past blogs but now I wanted to focus more on my experiences with the Italian healthcare as a pregnant woman. I don't know how many times I got the question from friends and family, "Are you having your baby in Italy or the States?" And it always seemed like it was more of a concern than a curiosity, not knowing how the healthcare was here and that the US is much more advanced when it comes to healthcare. Well, there was no doubt we were having the baby in Italy because I didn't want to do major traveling during my pregnancy, and above all, I don't have insurance any more in the States.

Anyways, I have already mentioned in an earlier blog that I was fortunate enough to find an OBGYN that I love in my town. He was the OBGYN to all three of my husband's sisters and his father was my mother-in-law's OBGYN and gave birth to Lino and his three sisters. Doesn't get more tight knit than that. Luckily, my worries and woes of inadequate healthcare during my pregnancy subsided the moment we had our first visit.

Now that I am in my third trimester and have two more months to go, I can expand more on the differences between prenatal healthcare here compared to the U.S. This is my first baby, but after reading American baby books and what to expect and seeing what my sisters have gone through, I can make an accurate comparison of the two for those women who may be in my shoes.

In regards to monthly visits, unlike the U.S. my OBGYN did an ultrasound at every single visit every month. I know that in the U.S. they don't do them at every visit after a certain amount of months. My blood pressure and weight is measured at every visit, but, I did not do a urine test at every visit like the U.S. I believe I have done four blood and urine tests to date.

As for screening tests, the nuchal translucency screening test (NT), or as it is called here - "plica nucale", was also done here between 11 and 14 weeks of pregnancy like in the U.S. The anatomy scan, or as it is called here - "strutturale", was also done here between 18 and 22 weeks like in the U.S. These two screenings are sooooo important so I was beyond relieved when it was provided here as well. The only difference was that I did not have a blood test that was done right before the NT which is the norm in the U.S. Although I can only speak for my OBGYN and who knows how other Italian doctors are, make sure these two screenings are done for your peace of mind that baby is healthy.

Moreover, the glucose screening test normally given between 24 and 26 weeks in the U.S. was not administered to me. Instead, I only did a routine blood test. This worried me a little, but since my sugar levels have always been lower than normal and my sisters didn't have a problem with gestational diabetes, I tried to ease my worries on this factor.

And that brings us to today! =) Two more months to go and who knows how going into labor will differ from the States. I will just have to wait and find out! It has been such a whirlwind of an experience and my husband and I are enjoying every minute of it. We love feeling our baby inside of me, growing and moving around and can't wait to start our family. Whether we are in Italy or America, the emotions and sentiments we have right now would be the same any where in the world.

One of the traditions here is that when baby arrives and you take baby home, you put a stork outside of your balcony to let everyone know that baby has arrived like the picture I have included of my neighbor's. How cute is that? That does mean you will be having many guests coming to visit and congratulate you which I hope I can handle as my life gets turned upside down, but it also reminds me of the unity that comes with living in a small town and the warmth of the Italian culture. It truly is a celebration.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tip of the Day: A Couple Cents Go a Long Way

When paying for groceries or anything really, the cashier becomes much more friendly when you give exact change. You can expect a little snarl from some if they ask you for change and you don't have any to give them. Seriously, I don't understand what the big deal is. You have a cash register, stock it up with change... it is only normal people may not have the exact change. I understand if you bought a pack of gum and give them a 50 or something... but otherwise no need for the rudeness. Fortunately, I always try to give exact change so that my wallet and purse will be lighter, and always get a kick out of how grateful they are when I do. It's like their face lights up and I just saved them from tears and heartache. It is what it is. =)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An Italian Spring

I am loving this beautiful Spring weather here in Italy... it seem to have come a lot sooner this year but I am not complaining. Although it does scare me how soon the hot and humid Summers will arrive as I quickly turn into a whale. =/ Baby is growing fast! =)

But back to focusing on Spring... I love Italian Springs... so different from L.A. because I actually notice the change in the environment since I am closer to all things nature and not trapped in the city between buildings and freeways. The different types of birds here are all chirping away, the air is so clean and fresh after so much rain we've had, and all the fields are starting to prepare for new crops. But the thing that gives me the most joy and serenity are the fields of cherry blossoms! Sooooo pretty. I could stare at them all day like I use to be able to stare at the Tuscan Hills all day when we lived in Siena. Breathtaking.... =)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Random Fact of the Day - Coke or Coca Cola?

Okay, this is truly very random... but I realized that since I have been here for quite a while, there are certain things that have become a norm to me when they do differ from the States. When my good friends came to visit us in the Summer, they were pointing out so many little things that were different that I never even gave a second thought about anymore. Like how there were hardly any billboards on the freeways (autostrada) and that they were so clean compared to our LA freeways filled with worn out tires and ladders. But, I am allll about the little things and gestures so *slap on the face*, wake up and smell the Italian coffee that even smells different from American coffee. =)

So one really random one for you.... When you order "Coke" at a restaurant or bar here, you don't say "Coke" like in the States... you have to say the whole word - "Coca Cola". They won't understand you if you don't. When did you ever say the entire "Coca Cola" in America? I think we'd laugh at each other for being so proper hehe. Oh and "Diet Coke" is "Coca Cola Light" here... ;)

Also, gosh, I really didn't realize the lack of sidewalks here. I mean I'm always walking around and looking out for passing cars, but seriously not that many sidewalks. It makes sense because a lot of the streets are tight and small but you definitely don't see those missing from our cities.

Little things... =)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

When the Scooters Come Out to Play

I am sooooo happy that it is finally getting warmer here in Italy! Seriously, I felt like I was in hibernation all winter... my LA blood just can't take the cold. =( I can finally go out without a jacket, not have to wear boots, and actually get a tan! Wooohooo! =) The beautiful weather definitely gets me in higher spirits but I am not the only one.

What I love best, is that I can hear A LOT more going on in the town too. Everyone is enjoying the arrival of Spring and the change of weather as you hear the kids come out to play on the streets, the bars put tables outside and you see old men playing cards and people watching, and the most noticeable - all the Italians back on their scooters and buzzing by. It doesn't get more Italian than that... =)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grilled Italian Vegetables

Before coming to Italy, I actually wasn't a huge fan of vegetables, especially eggplant. But I have been converted! Something about the simplicity of how they prepare their vegetables but also the quality of the vegetables and the amazing, pure olive oil that is used for them as well. You can definitely smell and taste the difference in the quality of the olive oil. This is a very easy dish to make, healthy, and also very tasteful. It goes great on a sandwich, if you want to make a vege panini (just add some arugula and voila!), or even with your choice of deli meat, or with rustic bread as a side dish.

Grilled Italian Vegetables (Verdure Grigliata)

1 red bell pepper
1 eggplant
1 zucchini
1 clove garlic minced
olive oil
white wine vinegar (optional)
capers (optional)
oregano (optional)

1. Place a grill pan on the stove and let it heat up.
2. Drizzle on some olive oil and then place the vegetables on the pan.
3. Once one side is cooked and has nice grill marks, flip them over to cook the other side.
4. Once they are done cooking, place on a plate in layers.
5. For each layer drizzle a little more olive oil, salt to taste and some minced garlic.
6. Repeat this for however many layers you have.

Then you can stop right there and have a delicious and healthy meal. However, to spruce up the flavors a little more, and if you like a little sour kick to your dishes, do the following:

7. For the red bell peppers, drizzle a little bit of white wine vinegar, throw on a small spoonful of capers and oregano. (If you do decide to put capers, no need to put salt since the capers are salty). Then mix.
8. For the eggplant and zucchini, you can also drizzle on a little bit of white wine vinegar for a little kick.

And there you have it! Very simple. Of course, it is always best to make this dish when the vegetables are in season as you will get the best taste out of them. And if you prefer one vege over another, you can just choose one of your favorites to make. Hope you like! =)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Traditions to Trends

One of the most interesting differences I have found between Italy and the U.S. is the division and movement from traditions to trends. In Italy, at least in Southern Italy, Italians still stay very true to traditions. Traditions in relation to special occasions, foods, and even names. This first came to mind because, by tradition, a father's son must name his first son after the grandfather. So in other words, two names are passed on from generation to generation. My husband was named after her grandfather and now our son will be named after his grandfather, my father-in-law.

It's a great tradition and a great joy for the grandfather but not as common now in other parts of Italy or the U.S. There are still families that do this but not the majority. I believe that for any city or country who chooses to move forward in technology and times also lose traditions in the process. For instance, Milan is completely trying to move forward and it has also come to my attention that they don't pass on names as much anymore either. They have also accepted new ethnic foods into their diet like sushi which has become a new trend there. Coincidence or direct correlation? I have yet to find any southern Italian willing to try sushi.

Nowadays in the U.S., it is more about choosing a unique name that no one else has, or a trendy name that is hot right now. Even with food... if you come to Italy, you will see that the authentic Italian recipes are very simple and delicious because they concentrate on a few flavorful ingredients. When you go into an Italian restaurant in the U.S., there's a million ingredients to make the dish more "trendy" and unique. Having less than five ingredients would just be unacceptable and not restaurant worthy. So what's better? Is it possible to move forward in times and yet still keep the traditions being passed on generation to generation. It is sad to think that we lose very special and meaningful traditions from our ancestors who have shaped the people we are today and our cultures but it seems quite inevitable at the rate we are going.

I often find myself criticizing Italy for not being diverse enough and not being open to other cultures - whether it be in foods or other commercial products, but I have now realized that has allowed them to stay true to their own culture and stay "traditional". I can't say which way is better and I know where you live and the people you are around will determine this balance for you, but I think it is very important to pass on traditions but not be skeptical to new trends (for the moment). As long as you remember that trends are just trends and don't last forever.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The 3 Month Itch

I have totally realized that I get this 3 month itch every time I come back from vacationing in L.A. It's always around three months where I start missing things back in L.A. like the food and shopping and just everything. I mean I always do in the back of my mind, but it's heightened at this time and I just have this slight sorrow and start nit-picking the things I don't like in Italy. It never seems to fail. Unfortunately, I do not have the luxury to hop on a plane every time I get this nostalgia but it doesn't make it any easier either.

It's pretty ironic though because when we do go to L.A., we go for long periods of time at once which is great but then I get the feeling where we have to get back to Italy to our lives and work and all. That we can't always be on vacation and need to get back to the "real world". Never satisfied right?

The weirdest part of it all is when I am watching television. When there's an American show on, I sooo get nostalgic and wish I was at those places. But then, when I see Italian shows, I get all loving of Italy and appreciate it more than the actual view I see in person. What is wrong with me? I seriously need to stop and smell the roses and realize the grass isn't only greener on the other side. Oy... help me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fast Forwarding

From the time I made the big decision to move to Italy, I always reminded myself to take it one day at a time. The hardest thing about making such a big move and leaving my life in LA was not knowing what my future would hold. Keeping this very effective mantra in mind, one day at a time... one day at a time..., really did help me make a smooth transition and allowed me to maintain happiness in my personal life and find success in Italy.

However, with my precious little baby on its way, I cannot help but think more about the future. Not necessarily mine and my husband's future together, but our baby's future. For this reason, my mantra has gone straight out the window these days. I can't help but think about all the wonders of life I want to show our baby, and most of all, to provide our baby with the best of EVERYTHING. This brings me to the topic of education. I really don't want to be a cynic and criticize the education system here in Italy but from what I have witnessed, it is not up to par. Also, being a student in the LAUSD, I think I have had my fair share of good and bad educational experiences to be impartial. However, the thing that worries me the most is how going to college here isn't just a given. Many students end their education after high school, if even. Some even "purchase" their high school diplomas... yeh, don't get me started on that. Hence, they are left to find any available job they can without any standards set for themselves.

So, it's no wonder that I am fast forwarding into the future and worrying about my child's education and future. Moreover, the job market here is nothing like the big cities in the U.S. Sure the U.S. is having their own share of unemployment and crisis but there are still so many more opportunities for people to explore. It's not so much that I doubt the K-12 education here but it's the mentality set in each child's head of what possibilities they have after that. That they should know that the sky is the limit and that you can run after that dream of yours. I'm not sure many of them have that mentality.

Life isn't easy and I believe if that someone is challenged, whether it be in education or other talents, they will be much more prepared and stronger to face all of life's unexpected roadblocks. Although the simple life definitely has its many perks, I don't think this is one of them. I really don't know where our family's future will be. All I know is that we do have options and will remain open to all of them and hopefully will find the best choice for the entire family. In the meantime, I have to have faith and at least give the education a chance just like I did with the healthcare. Sigh... one day at a time... one step at a time....