Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What are your quirks?

I know that everyone has quirks on how they like to have their house arranged, but I may have more than your average person. I'm pretty obsessed with organization and I love when my house is neat. Here are a few of my quirks or things that have to be just so:

  • I like the toilet paper to have the loose end over the top and hanging down in front. When my husband puts it on the other way, I try to ignore it, but usually end up turning it around at some point.
  • We have this boot tray and it drives me crazy when people just kick their shoes anywhere.
  • In my kitchen, when I empty the dishwasher I put the clean dishes and silverware on the bottom or in the back, so that everything gets even wear. (I know, I know... this one is particularly nutty.)
  • I keep all the doors in my house open (I close some now to aid in baby-proofing), but I like how open and flowing it feels. Europeans like their doors closed, especially in the bathrooms. They also do this in large multi-stall bathrooms, so it's really difficult sometimes to figure out which one is unoccupied!

I have more, but I don't want to scare you. Really... if I told you how I like to arrange my knick-knacks and pictures, you might have me committed.

What are your quirks? Anyone want to share some so I don't feel so strange? What about those who live outside of the US- any cultural quirks you notice?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Giveaway: Books with a small side of chocolate

Without further ado...

... the winner of Giveaway #1, the book Troubl.e Free Tra.vel with Chil.dren, by Vicki La.nsky, is Ginny at Mom of 2. Congratulations!

... the winner of Giveaway #2, the book SA.HM I am: Ta.les of a Stay-at-Home Mom in Eur.ope, by Chr.istine Louise Hohlb.aum, is Sarah at Enchantingly Simple.

The will also get a little chocolate treat in their package as well! I've left them either comments or emails, and if they don't claim their prize by next Sunday, May 4th, I will pick someone else. Thanks for everyone who participated! For links to all the winners, stop by!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Our Vatican Tour

We took a tour of the Vatican last week. The nice thing about living in cities like Paris and Rome is that you never feel pressured to see everything. I know I'll go back to the Vatican, so I can take my time, listen to the tour guide, and come back to anything I want to see again or check out in more detail.

Just a few pictures...

This is the Egyptian Obelisk out in front of St. Peter's Square. It was originally situated just behind the current location of the Vatican and was the site of St. Peter's crucifixion. He is buried just under St. Peter's Basilica.

A view of St. Peter's... this really doesn't give it justice. It is huge... the biggest church in the world. Seeing the altar from the back makes it look small, but if you walk further, the altar is so large that you can see the scale of everything. We'll definitely have to go back, look around more, and get a better picture, since the sun was in the front windows when I took this picture.
Our family behind the Vatican Museum, with the Roman fountains to the right. Love Bug is fast asleep (as she was for much of the tour) and you can see my big baby bump if you click to zoom. I wasn't showing at all with Love Bug by this point, but at 16 weeks, I'm huge already!
We had such a good time and loved our tour guide! Have any of you been to Rome? What was your favorite place here?

Monday, April 21, 2008

*UPDATED* Giveaway: Books with a small side of chocolate

*UPDATED* I've now closed comments on this giveaway... my daughter and her playdate friend will pick the winners tomorrow, Sunday, April 27th. Sorry you didn't make it in time... please stop by for the next giveaway!

Welcome to my blog and my giveaway! I hope you'll come back occasionally and say hi!

Giveaway #1 is a book called Trou.ble Free Trav.el with Chil.dren by Vicki It's a good book, but it's not right for my situation. It is pretty focused on domestic travel within the United States and most of the information on foreign travel is for one big trip, whereas I actually live and travel in Europe most of the time. Anyway, I thought it would be great to giveaway for someone who wants more advice and hasn't travelled much with their children, or someone who has children of all different ages to entertain. And since I'm known for giving away chocolate, you know I'll throw in a bit just for fun!

Giveaway #2 is a book called SA.HM I Am: of a Stay-at-Home Mom in Eu.rope by Chris.tine Louise Hohl.baum. I borrowed it from a friend but didn't finish, and this is the copy I bought to finish it, so I'll admit, sheepishly, that it's slightly used. And, as promised above, I'll also throw in a little chocolate with this one as well.

Please add your comment below to be entered in the drawing, and let me know if you want to enter for #1, #2, or both. Don't forget to leave your email address if your blog won't be linked on your comment. I'll pick a winner on Saturday, April 26th and notify the winners right away. This giveaway, because of the international spirit of this blog, will be open to anyone!

Visit the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival for more giveaways! Have fun!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

House tour... part 3

This is part 3 of our house tour...

This is the living room, facing out towards the windows. I love the ottoman we bought to use as a coffee table- it's turned out to be perfect for toddling toddlers. (The black thing in the corner by the window is our treadmill.)

The other view of our living room, towards the dining room... I like that we have bookshelves on either side of the opening to the dining room.

Our TV cabinet with a view from the couch.

Our dining room... you can see Love Bug's little table and chairs at the front of the picture.

Some of our favorite family photos in the hallway...

and the other side of the hall, and more photos.

Our toy organizer... I love the colorful bins and how all the toys can be seen.

We put all of Love Bug's toys around the room on foam blocks, so that when she drops toys or balls, it won't bother the people downstairs.

Another toy on foam blocks. Here you can see our carpet too, and it covers most of the center of the room. It helps a lot with noise as well. For as many complaints as we have, our downstairs neighbor smiles at us, coos at Love Bug, and has never said a word.
That's about it!. You can see other parts of the tour by going to Part 1 or Part 2. I still have a few things to show you, like our foyer and pantry, and I'll get to taking those pictures one day soon!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Decisions and prayer

A few people asked, after my last part of the house tour, if we were planning to stay in this apartment. It's hard to say because finding something available any time soon is difficult, and we do feel very settled here. The noise has not improved, despite our complaints, but we've learned to adapt our schedule to it. I get up when they do and use a sound machine to fall asleep if they are still making noise at night. I wait for their cleaning woman to finish the back rooms, before Love Bug and I take our naps. Many people say I should just go up there and knock on the door with Love Bug in my arms, and maybe she would feel feel sympathy for me. This probably won't happen because I am not good with confrontation, and she is. I can hear her yelling all day... at her kids, at her husband, and even at the cleaning woman.

I pray for this situation to be resolved, but I also pray for them. Maybe if they have a more peaceful life, that will make our lives more peaceful as well. They get up so early, around 7:00, yet they seem to still be running around trying to leave at 9:00. Maybe that's a lack of organization and I can pray for a more peaceful house. Their younger son, who is only 4, has at least three tantrums, that last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, each day. That's over 2 hours of kicking and screaming most days. He goes to bed around 11:00 and is woken up at 7:00, so I pray for more sleep for him, because that should help. He's probably just very tired. I hear the older boy, who is 10, yell at or even wrestle with his brother, and I pray for his parents to change their aggression, so he can change these dangerous habits before it's too late.

I also pray for the husband and wife, that they have a more peaceful life as spouses, and as parents. Sometimes when the son is wrestling with the younger brother, and then the younger boy starts into a tantrum, I go to another room to get away. I hear her footsteps above me, far away from her children. I think she is trying to get away too and probably wonders how things got this way with her children. When I'm woken up by the couple's fighting, I pray that they can come to a resolution about their problems and sleep soundly with no conflicts on their heart. And with as unfortunately loud as their intimate moments are, I'm sad to say I've only heard this once in the last three months. I find this such an important and joyful part of our marriage and I pray they can find joy and connection here too... just maybe with less vocalization.

So, no, I have no idea if we're here for good. But no matter what, please continue to pray for a resolution for us and for a more peaceful life for them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

House Tour... part 2

I'm going to show you around our bedrooms today...

This is a view of our bed and dresser, with the balcony behind...

Our bed- at the foot of the bed is a t-shirt quilt that I made with all my t-shirts from high school and college. I'm working on quilts for my husband and my Mom (with my Dad's old shirts).

This is another view across the room with our wedding pictures above our dresser. You can also see our closets... a rarity in Europe... we feel very blessed to have these.

On to Love Bug's room... her dresser, crib, and changing table with all her star and moon themed decor.

A view from the other side of her dresser and armoire with a door out to a shared balcony with us. The rug you see has lots of little stars... some white, some yellow... the white ones glow in the dark!

The other side of Love Bug's room with our extra bed for when she's bigger and some toys...

She has too many clothes- it's ridiculous! At least the clothes hanging are 12 months to 3 years...

I bought the lamp myself and decorated it with moons and stars from the wall border that we bought to match her star and moon decor. We haven't hung the wall border here in case we move soon!

I added a few extra stars that I didn't need for her lamp, but had already cut out, to her lightswitch. Most of them look like this in Italy, so I figure I'll just pop it off the wall and change it with the switch plate in our new place.

Here's where we feel really blessed. We have another small (extra) room and we use it for our washer and dryer and a guest bed.

The other view with our washer and a small washroom in the back.

A picture from the bed with the dresser and armoire we've put in. We also have a dryer just next to the armoire. Again, it's great to have space for all this and we feel blessed. Apartments are expensive here and 2 bedrooms is all we can really do, but this extra "service" room that doesn't count as a bedroom is so nice to have!

We'll continue later this week with the living room and dining room!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Good Sunday...

Today, as we were getting in the car after a great church service, all the orange blossoms were out. I can't describe the smell... it was so amazing! If you've never smelled them before, it smells a little like honeysuckle with a citrus, orange smell.

We drove a little ways to a restaurant and had a very nice meal. They gave Love Bug lots of attention and even stopped a few times to coo at her. It's so refreshing to be in a country where they love children so much!

Otherwise, we came home, took naps, and cleaned up a bit. A great day over all. I'll continue with the house tour in a day or two once I get the pictures loaded...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

House Tour... part 1

This is the Bathroom and Kitchen version of the tour... I'm including pictures of each room as well as favorite organization projects.

The is the blue bathroom that Love Bug and I share. I love the bright colors of the towels and accents I already had, so I was happy that they matched the tiles that were already there.

This is one of the cabinets in the bathroom. I'm keeping all the extra towels on the top shelf, extra sheets for the guest beds on the second shelf, and the bottom for extra toilet paper and an extra shower curtain. The other cabinet (not shown) has Love Bug's towels, some extra toiletries, and space for the new baby's towels.

This is B's bathroom, or the red bathroom. We also had a few sets of navy and maroon towels, so they went really well in here. I love the extra hand towels I found with his initial on them (the right side of the picture).

Our kitchen from the doorway. More cabinets extend to the left of the oven and we also have cabinets across from these next to the fridge... you can see them right....


You can see my kitchen scale in the picture... my favorite thing! Cooking is easy in metric because you just weigh everything. So, say you're making a cake... you put the bowl on the scale and zero it out. Then add flour to the correct weight... and zero it out. Then add butter... etc! Simple and no measuring cups to clean up!

The is one drawer in the kitchen that illustrated my believe that sometimes very little organization is the best. I keep paring knives in the far right bin... cheese and veggie peelers in the next bin. The rest I just leave loose, because they're all oversized. Large spice graters, a wine opener, a pizza wheel, and scissors are all too big for any bins I have.

My cooking supplies. We entertain a lot, so we have a lot!

The next two pictures illustrated one of my favorite organization techniques- "putting things in the area of first use". This is mentioned in a lot of organization books, but is completely under-utilized by most people.

I call this the breakfast cabinet. We have all bowls and plates in this cabinet, with cereal and oatmeal just above. Bread is above the fridge to the immediate right, along with glasses and cups in the cabinet to the right. Silverware is below in a drawer and Love Bug's dishes are in a cabinet below this. Breakfast is always eaten at home in our house and I love this cabinet. I really don't have to move much except to take a step to get butter, milk, or orange juice out of the fridge, which is one foot away! It's great for serving lunch and dinner as well, since all plates, silverware, and glasses are in one place!

This is my tea and coffee cabinet. My pretty tea mugs are on the top left and B's big coffee mugs are on the right. On the bottom shelf, from left to right, are coffee filters, equal, coffee beans, and a gallon bag full of 7 different types of tea. The boxes for 7 different types take up too much room, so I condensed! Behind this we have more specialty coffee and tea flavors for guests and special occasions. I admit, I use my specialty teas for myself a lot! But a lot of guests just want English tea or green tea from my mega bag, so I think I'm justified!
I hope you enjoyed part 1! I'll be doing tours of our rooms this weekend and our living room/dining room next week.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Organ Donation: Talk to your family about it today

I guess I didn't have to look far for inspiration- I found it right here in blog land. I don't know how I came across this website, but their story and their faith in God is amazing. This post, in particular, helped me decide what to blog about today.

If you aren't already an organ donor, please talk to your family about it today. Not just your spouse, but your parents, siblings, and children as well. If you have objections or concerns, read the ten myths about organ donation or stop by Donate Life America for lots of other information. (Thanks to the cfhusband who authors the blog above for these additional links.)

No one in my family has benefited from organ donation, but we are a donor family after donating my father's organs and tissues. As you know, a heart virus killed him, so unfortunately his heart was not donated, but some bones and tissues were used.

It's good to prepare yourself and your family for how quickly everything happens. In the case where the patient is dead before arriving at the hospital, organs can rarely be donated because the body has been dead for too long. They will probably call you within an hour of your loved one passing to ask you to donate their tissues, as in the case of my father.

If your loved one is clinically dead, but being kept alive by machines, you will be approached before they remove life support. This is important for the vitality of the organs, since they must harvest them quickly. Warn your family and prepare yourself for these questions. It's easy to get upset with medical personnel who are asking. As horrible as this moment is, realizing that your loved one will no longer be with you, this is a chance for you (through them) to save lives.

This is a picture of B sleeping with Love Bug. If you look, you can see a green bracelet on his wrist. This is the Donate Life bracelet they sent to our family, along with pins, and information about donation to give to others. We wear our bracelets and pins often, with pride. It helps us celebrate the wonderful decision my Dad made when he added that little heart to his drivers license, and the wonderful decision my mother made to honor his choice.
Updated to Add: You'll see that one of my comments below is missing, deleted. I just want to say for any of my regular readers that saw it, I have moral objections to what was said. The commenter is encouraging people to sign up for an group that puts organ donors on a special list with others who are also willing to donate. Basically, if you need an organ and someone in this special group passes away, you will get their organ if you are the most in need from this special group. It also means that if you die, your organs will go to anyone in this special group who is a match first, then to others who need your organs in the general population.
It may sound like a good plan and a way to get people to sign up for organ donation, but there are still many flaws. I had never heard of the organization until now, so it's a good bet that many others haven't as well. How is it fair (and how is it helping to promote organ donation) if a person's organs go to someone else on this special list, even if someone who is higher on the transplant list (meaning has a higher need) is already an organ donor? It's not... it's not fair at all. Maybe they didn't know about this special group and didn't know to sign up.
I wish this organization would put their energy and their money towards promoting organ donation and changing legislation to make sure more people are encouraged to become organ donors. Most medical organizations and doctors have called this group immoral and unfair. It directs your organs to other people who know about this special group, while meanwhile, someone else who is higher on the list will die waiting. Often, those in need of an organ are the biggest advocates for organ donation and do a lot to help the cause and encourage others to donate.
Anyway, so while you're talking about organ donation with your family and friends (especially since April is Organ Donation Awareness Month), also talk about groups like these and encourage them to warn others. The United Network for Organ Sharing (those who currently handle all organ donations in the United States) does not endorse this group. The need support for their cause, rather than those who want to make organ donation elite.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Complete lack of inspiration...

I'm often at a loss about what to write about. I always think of things during the day and then by the time I sit down to write, it's gone. Or sometimes I feel the need to write about something and then don't because I feel it's controversial or I don't feel comfortable sharing that much about my religious or political views. Plus, like I've told you all before, I think religion and politics are generally not polite topics of conversation.

So, what to write about next? Here are a few ideas... some are in the works, some are just ideas. What do you like? What do you want me to write about?

- I'm in the process of finishing my organization of our new place. My real plan is to take some pictures and maybe post them next week so you all can get a mini-tour of our place. Even though we might move, it's good to get set up since the move is only across town. The company we've talked to about the move assured us that they could move everything in dressers and cabinets, minus breakables, so that does make things easier if we just get organized now.

- So many people post about book lists of what they plan to read, but I unfortunately don't have the luxury of planning what books I'm going to read ahead of time. I get them from our church, from my husband's job, and from relatives who are nice enough to send me a few now and then. I was thinking about posting about books I have read already and giving notes about what I liked and didn't in each one...

- What about a question and answer. Would you like to ask me questions about Rome, about our life here? What else?

What else could I do?

Maybe it's the pregnancy or the sunny Spring weather, but I have no motivation to blog at all!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Since when was politics a polite topic of conversation?

More and more these days I've been getting emails from friends and family with political content, mainly referring to the positive or negative qualities of one or more presidential candidates. Sometimes they are forwards about someones voting record, sometimes plugs for a group who needs my support for their cause (including voting for the candidate they support), and sometimes they are just personal pleas for me to vote one party over another.

Okay... someone please help me... when did politics become a polite or appropriate topic of conversation? I think the informality and impersonal nature of email makes people feel more comfortable to share their views. But I find it offensive, even when the candidate they are promoting is the one for whom I plan to cast my vote. I find it offensive simply because most of my friends know that I have strong opinions and I believe I have the right to those opinions. Do people honestly believe that I'll simply read some forward and say, "Oh, I'm going to switch parties right now and vote for this candidate!"? NO... most of us have our beliefs and that should be respected.

Is anyone else getting these emails? Does anyone else find them offensive? Any good ideas of how I could reply to stop these emails, but still be kind about it?

Sorry for the negative post today, but there is good news! We got the results of our nuchal fold screening today (which tests for Down Syndrome, chromosomal abnormalities, and some severe heart defects) and it's a very low risk. To get these results they combine your age, a measurement at the back of the baby's neck during ultrasound, and two different parameters in your blood. My risk was 1 in 1,500 with Love Bug, which is good, and with this baby it's 1 in 5,000, so even better. It's not full proof though, so they'll do a more detailed ultrasound at 22 weeks. We will, of course, accept any child God gives our family, but it's a good feeling that we are blessed with a seemingly healthy baby.