Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A few notes for today...

For Works-for-me-Wednesday, scroll down or just click here.

Our car came today! My husband actually drove it already to get gas... granted it costs about 7 million dollars to fill up a tank here, but at least we're mobile. Look out, Italy!

Our household goods are arriving from Paris tomorrow morning! After four long months, I will again be able to lay on my very comfy couch and sleep in my very comfy bed. Most of my other stuff is in boxes, so that will take awhile to find...

Carrie- I saw your comment about apartment pictures on my last post and wanted to let you all know that I will be posting them soon! I already have before pictures of our sad, empty apartment, and as I unpack, I will post the progress of the rooms over the next few weeks!

Cheri- I figured out how to spell check our posts. Go to your dashboard and switch your language to English (UK) and it will work. You may have to do it every time you log in for awhile, but it will stick eventually. My husband tried to explain it, but I stopped listening after "... system recognizes the URL as... " blah, blah, blah...

As a woman with not much to do in a very empty place, I have been listening to a lot of CDs on our laptop. I bought the Enchanted Soundtrack and wondered who sang song number 4. It's Jon McLau.ghlin, so of course I bought his latest album Indi.ana, and love it.

Works-for-me-Wednesday: Entertaining Baby/Toddler with Very Little

In a complete exercise of self-torture, my husband and I have been in the process of moving from France to Italy for the last four months. Yes, four months! (It's an issue of getting residence visas and apartments set up, etc.) In the meantime I've only been able to entertain Love Bug with what I could carry in our five suitcases and three carry-ons. Here are some great tips for surviving trips of any length with a baby. Or just ideas if you want some new playthings and don't want to spend a lot of money. Most things I just made and left behind as our suitcase got packed again.

- We made different noise makers. I let a few water bottles dry out really well and added things from the kitchen to make noise- rice, cereal, pasta. Rice so far is her favorite and she still carries this particular bottle around.

- I also filled some bottles with water and either added food coloring or fun objects. One person we were staying with had glitter, and that was entertaining for hours.

- Love Bug loves paper, but she often chews it and swallows pieces, which I don't like. But after she got a hold of a few Christmas photo cards, I noticed that she just liked to carry them around and look at them. She didn't chew them and probably couldn't tear off any pieces if she tried. So, try some pictures that you don't care about or photo paper that printed incorrectly.

- I filled one of these small CD cases with some of her favorite music. Most of our rental cars had CD players and they were great entertainment in people's homes as well. We don't plan to let her watch TV until she's a bit older, but you could also fill it with DVDs as well.

- Babies around Love Bug's age (turning one year) love to put things in containers and take them out. Since her favorite blocks set was way too big to put in a suitcase, we made our own. Using a bowl or a tin with a lid, we added small jewelry boxes, empty spools of thread, and other small objects (obviously make sure they are too big to fit through an empty paper towel roll, to prevent choking).

- During our stay in a hotel room, a favorite thing was to let Love Bug jump on the bed, holding onto my hands. She loved it and since it was a "special treat at the hotel" she's never tried it again, and my back thanks her for it.

- We went to the mall a few times just to play in the play areas and watch people. The socialization and entertainment was worth it, and being breastfed, the colds she got were minimal.

- If you don't have Internet on your trip, search beforehand for things to do in the area. We found lots Christmas light displays since it was the holidays, but we also saw lots of year round activities. Also search for playgrounds in the area or ask your family. Most of the time they'll have a baby swing or two for you to use... and of course they can run around and get your assistance in going down the slide.

Wants some other great ideas? Visit Works-for-me-Wednesday, hosted by Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Big Giveaway This Week...

This week over at Shannon from Rocks in my Dryer is hosting a big giveaway carnival. Go visit! I have participated in a few myself, but since we just arrived here and are unpacking the next few weeks, I think I'll sit this one out. Go visit and get some free stuff.

I will probably participate next time, and I would want to giveaway something local... possibly Roman, or Italian at the very least. I can't send wine, because the customs duties would be outrageous. I've already done chocolate. Cheese would rot... see the difficulty I'm having?

So, does anyone have any suggestions? What would you like from Italy?

Oh, and speaking of Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer, she is going on a trip with Compassion to LiveBlog her experiences in Uganda. She has specific prayer requests here, and there are links so you can read more about what she is doing. If you don't already read her blog, stop by and say some prayers for her. And stop by in a little less than two weeks to hear about her experience on the trip.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

To wash dishes or not? That is the question.

Our new apartment in Rome doesn't have a dishwasher. I knew this coming in, but figured it would be okay. I washed dishes in college and when we were first married, so I can easily do it again. Many people I met here have eventually bought one and I, always the martyr, thought that I was too good to cave in and it would be good way to live simply.

Well, life with a baby is definitely different and our meals are more elaborate. After two weeks of washing dishes upon mounds of dishes, I'm tired and my hands are a wreck. Not only are my knuckles dry, but a few of them actually have cracks. I know that I'm probably using water that is too hot, but I won't back down on that. Using hot water kills more germs than anything. On top of that, we actually have space next to the sink where the previous tenant had a dishwasher, so that all but clinched it that we should get one to fill the hole in the kitchen!

Am I totally ridiculous to want a dishwasher? What uses more water... a dishwasher or my hand-washing the dishes? Conservation is important to me. Keep in mind when you answer this that when I wash dishes, I would say I'm moderate on water usage. I wash each one, turn on the hot water to rinse, and then let them air dry. As for dishwasher use, I only run mine about every five days on the energy saver cycle. I always wash pots and pans myself to save room so I can fit more plates, bowls, and cups in the dishwasher and use it less.

Money is not a factor in this decision. We can afford one and will probably sell it when we leave. What should we do?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

I'm 29 today... and I don't think I like it. Late twenties almost sounds worse than thirty when you say it. Thirty has a nice ring, but late anything just sounds like you're old and slow.

Oh, and go wish a Happy Birthday to my "Birthday Twin". (I love that expression, Carrie!)

Speaking of being slow, what is wrong with my spell check? Does anyone else have a problem with it not working? I click the button and it doesn't do anything. Any advice is appreciated...

If i speall evrythang rong, pleez forgive mee.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Reducing Household Waste

Carrie and I have been talking via email about how to reduce our household waste and I wanted to share some of my ideas with you for Works-for-Me Wednesday. You can do some or all of these things and you'll find a huge change in the amount of trash you put out each week. I use these tips personally and our household waste is only about one medium sized (13 gallon trash bag) each week, and very often, it's less.

First, the products I buy are in less packaging or in no packaging, if possible. I also buy things in big bottles or containers, verses single servings (soda, juice, snacks) and invest in some good quality zip.loc bags and water bottles to carry them around in. The bottles and bags can be washed out and used again.

Shopping for products with less packaging is very easy to do in Europe, so you'll have to work a little harder in the States. Take one day when you're not so rushed in shopping and look for these products and purchase them verses their competitors. You can even send them an email thanking them for the minimal packaging and give them tips to reduce their packaging even further. Send emails to the competitors letting them know why you didn't buy their product. (I do a lot of "customer comments" via email or phone myself and they really do listen!) The company I plan to contact this week is Dan.non, specifically about Act.ivia. I love yogurt, especially this brand, but I don't buy it as much as I'd like because of the packaging being so excessive. We often buy big tubs of plain yogurt and mix in fruit. Why don't companies just sell their yogurt in big tubs, as well as individual? This way, those of us who want to be green, could buy the big tubs and dish it out in bowls or put it in small containers when we're on the go.

I also research what numbers are the easiest to recycle in my area. It's often 1, 2, and 4. I buy products that are in those numbered containers so I can recycle. Check this page out to learn more about the labels. I fill two or three recycling bins a week and that's after I rinse out and squeeze the water bottles flat.

Another huge source of waste is paper towels and napkins. For napkins, we use cloth and just wash them every week, or more if they get dirty. For rags, we cut up t-shirts. I use white ones that I can bleach in the wash to clean Love Bug's face or toys and colors for dusting and other cleaning. I have two bags hanging in my pantry. One is labeled clean, one is dirty, and when the "dirty" bag is full, I empty out the rags and clean them all, dry them, and put them back in the clean bag. It's important to do this only when you have a lot of them to wash because running the washer/dryer half full is really wasteful. I do this with clothes and linens as well, and never run a load unless it's full to the top.

To reduce packaging waste in other ways, I buy music and movies digitally. We use iTu.nes but there are a lot of ways to do this. I've also thought of buying a Kind.le or something similar, but for now I just borrow books.

Don't forget about bags- the things you bring all this stuff home in! Take reusable bags or just reuse the ones you already have. I keep plastic bags all balled up inside one and then take them to the grocery store with me and reuse them until they are just a mess. For day to day shopping, I keep two of these in my purse. I like fabric ones for clothes, so they don't get ruined with any food residue. I also love this but know the weight isn't practical for my completely on-foot lifestyle in Rome.

Want some more great tips? Visit Shannon's Works-for-Me Wednesday at Rocks in my Dryer.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

First pictures out and about in Rome...

Looking up at the Spanish Steps... unfortunately they are doing construction on the piazza at the top. Once that's done and there are some flowers in the Spring, I bet it will be even more beautiful.

View from the top of the Spanish Steps. There is a great restaurant on the right of this picture and I can't wait to try it! They mentioned a braised beef with a truffle sauce and I'm pretty sure I could smell it as I looked over the menu.

The girls walking around the stone streets of Rome.

Love Bug and Dadddy eating lunch at a cafe.

The Trevi Fountain...

... close up and more detail.

We passed a store with these stickers in the windows to let patrons know what languages they speak inside the shop. The sticker on the left obviously tells customers that they speak (some) English. This said...

... what is this other language they speak?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fitting in without even trying...

The last four years, living in Paris, France, I tried in vain to fit in. My French vastly improved, my clothes looked more European, and my smile even went on strike. (My smile has happily put down it's picket signs, but thanks for your concern.) None of it mattered, because no matter how hard I tried, I just looked American. Not that I cared, I was proud of it. Most French people I met commented on how much they loved some American TV show or product and they told me that my accent when I spoke French was very charming. My own little plug for tourism in France... they really are very nice, I promise.

Now, after a few months in the United States, we have moved on to Rome, Italy, for another three years. Suddenly, I fit in. Glasses are the ultimate fashion statement (see mine on the left), so I am the latest thing. The Italians also love jewelry, which I love too. Right now I only have my nicest stuff, with real stones. All my crazy, fun jewelry is in a box coming from France. Just wait until the Italians see that bling- they might proclaim me a citizen on the spot. Their clothes are also more relaxed and they wear a lot of black- definitely my style. I'm blond, blue-eyed, with soft features, so I still look American, but at least now I will blend in better and look like I fit in.

Well, now I have certifiable proof that it's working. I was stopped not once, BUT TWICE, by Italian women and asked for directions. I immediately gave myself away by speaking to them in French (neither spoke any English) and I also showed my hand by not knowing where they wanted to go. But this is huge progress, since I don't think I was asked where something was in France for the first two years I lived there. And just one week into our time here- excellent progress so far!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Greetings from Bella Roma!

First, jet lag is horrible with a 14 month old! It was so much easier when she slept all the time and we were only back in the States for a week. This time, after being back for four months, Love Bug is fully fixed on Central Time. Life in Italy, seven hours ahead, is not going well so far! I keep trying to remind her that she was born in Europe, so that should be her "natural" time, but she just looks at me and giggles.

On a side note, isn't this dress cute? More and more I think that when we have more kids, I wouldn't mind another girl. I'd certainly save money.

We tried to go sight-seeing, but it didn't go very well. We got all ready, the sky finally looked blue and sunny (after three days of rain), and then before we left the apartment complex we felt a few rain drops. By the time we got to the end of the block, it was really pouring. I had heard that Italy has more rain than France, but I didn't believe it.

I guess now I do.

I did take one picture while I was out, of those big black bins in the middle of the road. What are those you ask? They are trash bins. The dark green bins, black in this picture, are for trash, and the blue one is for recycling plastic, glass, and aluminum. I've heard that there is also a white one for cardboard and paper, but I haven't seen it yet. Every few blocks, they are blocking the sidewalk, stinking, and as tall as me. I'm all for the easy recycling, but I hate how much they ruin the look of the street.

And there is a lot of amazing stuff to see... stuff that I don't want to be covered by trash bins. So far, what I've seen by car and walking around the neighborhood is beautiful. Many of the buildings range in color from tan to golden to terra cotta, so they really look beautiful in the sun. There are palm trees everywhere and the Roman ruins and old city walls pop up out of nowhere. I think once we get out more, I will really love this place.

Last thing I wanted to share is a picture of my keys. I love that we have skeleton keys now- it's so neat! Most people I've met have the same, so it seems to be standard here. The only bad part is that they're big- about as long as my hand- and they weigh a lot too.

I'll let you know more about how things are going and share more pictures as we get out. The first place on my list is Trevi Fountain, so look for that this weekend. We're supposed to be getting our stuff at the beginning of February, so I'll also give you a house tour of our new place once we're settled.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Prayer and the Church Junkie

We were supposed to already be in Italy by now, but Love Bug got a bad case of croup over the weekend and was "medically unstable" to fly. Please pray for her to feel better, sleep better (not just for her, but for our sake too!), and for a safe flight tomorrow.

But that's not really why I this blog entry is titled Prayer. I titled it that because of a little ritual I had while living in France for four years. Because we walked so much, and all over the city, I made it a point to stop, at least once a week, and take some time to pray. We're Catholic and the number of Catholic churches in France is incredible. It was easy to find lots of different churches, tucked away, that I had never seen before. In some sections of Paris, there was a church on every corner. I prayed at home and I prayed during Mass, but this was a special time set aside for prayer. It also allowed me to appreciate the city, the different sections, and a lot of history. After weeks of doing this, dragging my husband to yet another church that I "had read about", he dubbed me the Church Junkie.

One day during our first Spring in Paris, walking in the Latin Quarter, we walked into a beautiful church. It was built in the fourteenth century, had a beautiful sound as your voice echoed, and I just felt that I had been there before. I told my husband this and he looked at me like I was nuts. Moving to the back, I noticed this beautiful carved music stand and then I remembered. My college choir had sung here the summer after my junior year. I loved the trip, but our time in Paris was so short and I had lost the program that listed the church we had sung in. I told my husband all about the concert. At the end we sang some Gospel, and the French people who had come to listen were clapping and some cried, like they had never heard such amazing singing. I got so animated and excited just telling him about it.

I think he finally understood why I loved churches so much. You can feel the prayers going out, the happiness of weddings held there, and the joyful songs people sang, like my choir had sung. My husband isn't a Church Junkie like me, but I think he is ready to explore the beautiful churches of Rome with us. Hopefully he can hold Love Bug, so I can take a few moments for an extra special prayer each week.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Drastic Measures

I reread this post that Carrie wrote almost two months ago wrote about Taking Drastic Measures. I thought a lot about how much the doctor and his family had scaled down to live a more simple life, with lots of measures for conservation.

In a way, I feel that I already live with conservation in mind. I lived in a small apartment in Paris and will also live in a similar sized one in Rome. We only have two bedrooms, so if we have more children, they will have to share a room. Room sharing honestly appeals to me anyway, since many studies point to it's many benefits. Other than the two bedrooms and baths, we have a kitchen, dining room, living room, and balconies. That's it- just around 1,000 square feet. We have one parking space and only one car. In fact, we've only had one car for almost three years and we didn't drive it more than once a week. Before that, we lived with no car at all. We use biodegradable diapers for Love Bug and she was (still is a few times a day) breastfed, which reduces energy consumption because you don't need to sterilize bottles and heat formula.

We bring our own bags to the grocery store. With no disposal, our trash needs to be taken out more due to smell, than due to being full. We probably only fill one medium trash bag a week. I easily fill two recycling bins a week. We only have one TV and one computer, which are both only on a few hours a day.

But I also wonder if I could do more? We have lived the last three months with just what we could carry in a few suitcases. So could I live that simply all the time? Conservation is not just about how little you use or how little you throw away, but it's also about how little you have. We don't own a lot of stuff, we rent movies, borrow books, and only buy things we absolutely need. We buy most of our music online now and transfer it onto our iP.ods, so that a jewel case and CD are not wasted. But could we push more to make sure those things aren't even produced if they're not needed? Could we push more to make sure food is distributed more evenly so that food does not go bad sitting on shelves in the US, while people in other places go hungry?

This has to come from political and social change in our country. We can all live with conservation in mind, but we must also vote with conservation in mind. I won't tell you who to vote for, and in fact, I won't even tell you who I'm voting for, but it should weigh heavily on your mind when you go to vote for the President this November. It's a huge issue for our country. My experiences in France have shown me that we need to do more. They charge customers for grocery bags and wrap their baguettes and pastries in just paper. Public transportation is encouraged when possible. From hearing a few friends in Germany, including Susan, it sounds like they are incredible at conserving, even better than in France. Why are we so behind and so unconcerned with the future of the planet for our children?

My goals are to really look at everything as we unpack, so I can give even more of our household goods and clothes to charity. I also want to look at my life and see how I can do more to reduce my use of materials and energy. Finally, I want to really see what I can do to reduce our household waste by recycling more.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year from the Beginning of the Alphabet!

Our Christmas Photo Album...

Love Bug in her Santa Suit

Daddy holding Love Bug, with Uncle J on Christmas morning

Unwrapping a present

And on New Year's Eve!

At a New Year's Party

Nana (my Mom) wraps Love Bug in confetti

Party scene... lots of Moms, Dads, & Kids

about 2 hours before midnight... the latest Love Bug can make it!
We wish everyone a blessed and happy 2008!