Tuesday, January 31, 2012

variety is the spice of life

Americans tend to like to make choices, I think, because there seems to be so much variety in the United States. Especially when it comes to food. Not only are there hundreds of types of food to choose from, there are also hundreds of brands to choose from, and also lots and lots of stores to choose from. And then there are the restaurants. Oh, and let's not neglect to mention the scores and scores of food recipe websites and blogs and television channels. Holy guacamole!

In Italy, this is simply not the case. The only variety that really exists is the thousands of shapes of pasta, or the hundreds of types of cheese. All the grocery stores are similar, and there simply aren't that many of them, and all the restaurants serve Italian food. Period. I've gotten used to this lack of variety, and have enjoyed Italian food to its fullest, so I don't miss all the choices.

The other day, though, I was really craving some good Mexican food from a good Mexican restaurant. For a few minutes, I wished I could just drive up the road and get some good guacamole, or homemade corn chips, or a fancy burrito, or a margarita.... I happened to talk to my mom a few minutes after this reverie, and she was surprised that there were no good Mexican food places around these parts. Her surprise surprised me, until I remembered all the variety that people in the US enjoy. I had forgotten.

And so, Mom, I just had to show you the picture I took of this food buffet at an Italian birthday party we recently attended.

Notice the "variety" in all the different types of sandwiches???

Do you believe me, now?

Friday, January 27, 2012

history lesson


We have spent a significant amount of time visiting sites of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance history here in Italy and Europe, but one major piece of history we have yet to explore in depth is that of the World Wars.

After helping out at the abbey last weekend, we meandered over to a World War II battle site called San Pietro. In December of 1943, the Germans invaded a peaceful medieval town and took it over hoping to further their cause. At that point, the Italians decided they didn't want to be on the same side as Hitler anymore, so for the first time, the Italian Royal Army fought with the Allied Forces.

The town has been left as it was after the battle, which is pretty incredible to see.


I was deeply impacted by seeing the caves where the people of the town hid from the soldiers. They literally dug out a safety zone in the mountain using things like spoons and forks. The lady leading the tour told us that when her dad was 5 months old, he lived in one of these caves for 3 months, drinking nothing but sugar water. Her dad! I shuddered as it dawned on me just how recent this history is.

Once the war was done, the people decided to rebuild their town, but not in the exact same location.

Since the women were the ones who had to go down to the river to get the water and haul it back up the hill to the town, they were clever enough to suggest building the town down the hill, closer to the river. Thanks to those women, you can now look down on the thriving town of San Pietro and feel hopeful and inspired.

Yep, that's right the women are smarter. 

I hope you've enjoyed this little history lesson today. If you want to learn a little more, you can watch this documentary by John Huston on youtube. Some of it was filmed during the actual battle. Pretty interesting.

Class dismissed. Go enjoy your Friday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

a secret abbey


Last Saturday, we volunteered to do some work at an abbey somewhere in the mountains near here. I can't tell you the name or exact location, because the nuns who run the place would like to remain anonymous...



 I just couldn't resist showing off some of the pictures, though.


The day was just too gorgeous.


Even though Italy is undergoing some strikes right now and gas stations are running out of fuel and people are just sort of angry at the moment, I can't help but continue to be madly in love with this country when I look at this pictures. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

a random ramble from a ramlin' mamma

Here's a little something I wrote and forgot to post on Friday.

I hope it provides a bit of entertainment on your manic Monday.

There are plenty of corners in the United States where people stand with cardboard signs hoping that someone will reach into the ashtray of her car and give them her spare change. I'm sure we've all hunkered, avoided eye-contact, and hoped for the light to change so we could keep on going...

The scene is a bit different here in Bella Napoli. I've never seen a cardboard sign. And the people hoping for money at intersections are not standing. Oh no. They are working. With arms full of trinkets and doodads and, oddly enough, packs of tissue papers (you know, the kinds that are wrapped in plastic with a little opening for you to pull out a tissue anytime you might need one? They go in your pocket or purse? Am I painting a clear picture here?), they are trying desperately to make a sale to each and every passing car.

There is one particular stoplight that I frequently encounter throughout my less-than-hectic week. Well, it's not an official stoplight, really. It's sort of a makeshift thing that was set up for the "construction" they have been working on since we arrived in this town a year and a half ago. I'm not sure why, but everyone actually sticks to the rules with this light, and they remain stopped until it turns green, which causes a pretty decent line of cars to form. This must be one of the hottest selling spots in town, and I bet "venders" fight over it, because people sitting in their cars actually have time to contemplate whether or not they need a pack of tissues.

For the last year and a half, I have sat in my car watching these guys (I've yet to see a woman "vender") walk up and down the line of cars asking people if they'd like to purchase something. I usually have anywhere from 3-5 minutes to sit and think about what it might be like to be one of these guys. What would it be like if that were my job? My way of life? I suppose I would learn to get used to disappointment. To striking out. Because, most people decline the sale. Sometimes, though, someone rolls down his window, hands some money out, and buys a pack of tissues. Like a good golf shot, it is probably what brings those "venders" back to the grindstone everyday. It's what keeps their hope alive. Makes them believe that it's all worth it. Then I start to feel guilty and think I should buy a pack of tissues from the guy, so maybe I could help his day a little. But then I would end up with a car full of tissues, and, as much as I like to be kind and helpful, I equally do not like to be wasteful. So there I sit.

Pondering.... Pondering....

Until, of course, the light changes and I get back to my less-than-hectic day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tony's birthday/MLK Jr. weekend

Tony's birthday is one of my all time favorite things to celebrate (it was last Sunday. Sorry for the delay in posting). Every year, I reflect upon what my life might be like if he were never born. Selfish, I know, but aside from my mother who brought me into the world, nobody has impacted my life as much as Tony. Plus, it always falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (they have the same birthday), so you get an extra day added to your weekend, which is never a bad thing.

This year, all I could do was pinch myself and think that, without Tony, I most definitely would not have been hiking along the Amalfi Coast, eating looong Italian lunches with friends, or visiting wineries in Taurasi, Italy.


Oh, and I probably wouldn't be pregnant. And there would definitely be no Graham. And I'm not sure  that I would completely understand the meaning of love, which means I might just hate everything, and that would be terrible.

"Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”
Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches


Thanks for illuminating my life, Tony.

Monday, January 16, 2012

bump on the blog

In between 32 and 33 weeks.

I think the bump is looking more like a mound these days.

The crazy thing is that I feel happier and lighter and overall just plain better right now than I've felt during this entire pregnancy. My mood is good. My energy is good. My skin is clear...ish. And, aside from this foot lodged into my ribs, my body is feeling comfortable...ish.

Gotta love the ups and downs from hormones, huh?

Now, could somebody please tell me where I put my chocolate?

**Stay tuned for details about where the photo came from**

Friday, January 13, 2012

what I am doing today

1) Buying plane tickets for my mom to come visit for three whole weeks in April!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2) Planning a hike and a lunch on the Amalfi Coast for Saturday, then a lunch and a trip to a winery on Sunday for Tony's birthday weekend.

3) Making birthday cards for Tony with Graham.

4) Figuring out how to make a homemade funfetti cake for Tony's birthday.

5) Eating too much of the Reces icecream I drove all the way to the base to get for Tony today as one of his birthday gifts when I had no other reason whatsoever to drive all the way to the base.

6) Enjoying the view outside my window.

Hope you're enjoying your Friday as much as I am!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

time marches on

It's no secret that I tend to get a little emotional when I think about how much Graham has grown. About how the baby in him is just, well, gone. About how I sometimes peruse pictures and videos of his babyhood and let myself just cry. About how I used to get so excited over each and every milestone, but now I don't want to see anymore milestones. I simply want time to stop.

But, alas, time marches on, and today I realized that maybe that's not such a bad thing after all. Today, I discovered something wonderful about Graham growing up. It is completely revolutionary, and my life will never, ever, be the same.

Today, I discovered that Graham can vacuum!

And he likes it!

He vacuumed the entire kitchen/living room area while I washed the dishes. I gotta figure out how to use this discovery to my advantage and try to get him to continue to like it, rather than giving in to the temptation of making him do all the vacuuming from here on out and consequently squashing his love for it.

Oh, and I guess I should also mention that he is really starting to grasp this whole reading thing, which is pretty awesome to witness.

And, I overheard him uttering several Italian phrases today. Hey, maybe he's a bilingual genius! I kid, I kid.

Anyway, the moral of this story is that I suppose watching your kid grow up can be quite amazing.

No, really the moral of the story is that I may never have to vacuum again!

Monday, January 9, 2012

how was your weekend?


Did you spend hours upon hours playing with mini-remote control cars like we did? No? Well, you should try it sometime. Maybe next weekend? You might regret it when you think of all the housework you could have accomplished, or the places you could have visited, but whatever. It'll be worth it, because it's fun. I promise.

Tony ordered these mini-racer things for Graham as a Christmas gift, but they didn't arrive until after Christmas, so we gave them to him on the Epiphany. In case you're wondering, the Epiphany represents the day the wise men visited Jesus and gave him gifts. We figured it was a pretty fitting day to give Graham another toy to play with.

Little did we know that we would get sucked in to these things ourselves. They are addicting, people. We set up the little cones that came with them and tried to hit them with the cars. Each time you hit one, you scored a point, according to Graham. It was more difficult than you might imagine. And, in a household without television or video games, it provided endless hours of entertainment.


Go get ya some.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

favorite pictures from 2011

In no particular order, these were some of my favorite pictures/memories from the past year.

Just felt like sharing....

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

blog therapy

I've been a bit of a Debbie Downer the past couple of days. All I've been able to focus on are the discomforts of this pregnancy and how I miss my family and friends. I've just been sitting around the house twiddling my thumbs, because, well, all you hard working folks out there are going to be jealous when I say this, but I am bored. I'm sorry. I know. I mean, I could go out exploring Naples, but I am getting sort of tired of this feeling of purposelessness that being unemployed has plagued me with. Lately, I've been allowing that feeling to somewhat paralyze me. I feel stuck. Anyone know of any good jobs that I can do from home????

But, I don't think you visit this blog to listen to a Negative Nancy. So today, I am trying to change my tune.

I'm simply going to list the positives.

My boys.

 Sunsets outside my front window.
A healthy baby in my belly.
The five hours I spent skyping with my mom over the weekend.
Graham's friend's mom who invited Graham over to play today.
Hot showers.
Hmm, actually, I think I will go enjoy one of those right now.


Thanks for being my therapists today. I'm already feeling a little better.

Monday, January 2, 2012

wrapping up 2011

Well, since it's the second day of the new year over here, I figured I better say goodbye to last year.

We had a rather subdued holiday season at the Blaine house this year. We were all quite sick, and I have been suffering from every single pregnancy discomfort and ailment known to woman. I thought I was some kinda tough mama with Graham's pregnancy, but this one is humbling me every single day. Sigh.

Anyway, our Christmas morning was full of Lightening McQueen and a slinky.


After being cooped up and gazing longingly at our view of Ischia, we decided to use what little energy we had the day after Christmas and hike to the top of the island where there happens to be a little chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas.


It was funny trying to describe the difference between St. Nick and Santa Claus to Graham. He was confused about why the saint statue wasn't wearing a red and white suit.


I've said before how people used to come from afar to the land of Ischia to be healed by its sands. Well, it actually did turn out to be a rather healing hike for Tony and me. We thought Graham was also on the up and up, but then his tonsils got huge and he got a fever, so he had to go back to the doctor, but now he is definitely much, much better.


 New Year's Eve was filled with friends, food and fireworks at our house, as well as resolutions to travel to Ireland and Poland this year. Such rough lives we lead! Here is my lone picture of one of the fireworks we shot from our house.

 You will just have to come here next year so you can believe me when I tell you how crazy the fireworks are on New Year's Eve in Naples.

Now, I get to spend the whoooole week with Graham, because his school doesn't start back up until the 9th.


 Maybe we'll go do a little adventuring and then I'll write about it.

Or, maybe not.

Maybe I'll just stay home and trrryyyyy to enjoy being pregnant!

Happy 2012!