Monday, October 31, 2011

Hyped up on Halloween

Today I finally understood the meaning of the words “sugar high”. I had always been one of those people who scoffed at other mothers’ tales of crazy kids hyped up on sugar, my reasoning was that if your kid couldn’t handle a little sugar without bouncing off the walls then you should probably start testing his blood sugar levels cause we do have a pancreas for a reason and more than likely the hype about sugar was due to the fact that most kids overindulged at parties and what was making them bat-shit crazy was being with twenty other kids, that just hyped each other up by association, not the sugar. Eh. Well, tonight I stand corrected.

I mean I still believe the above, to an extent, but we also don’t have an awful lot of sugar in our house. I’m not a food nazi by any means, I just try not to give them to much junk since they’re little enough that I still have some sort of say in the matter, I just had no idea what happened when they got a little… ahem… extra sugar in them.
Tonight, well tonight, I had three kids bouncing off the walls (my two plus a friend). The girl was mostly whiny and tired, the boy and his friend were like two whirling dervishes - on crack. Even after I finally managed to get him settled down enough to get in bed he still laughed maniacally, and frankly a little eerily, for a good ten minutes.

Anyway... one of the things I had always regretted most about living and raising my children in Italy was that they wouldn’t share the same experiences I had growing up in America. No Saint Paddy’s day, no Fourth of July fireworks, no Cinco de Mayo, no fall activities, no Halloween, no Thanksgiving with family (we do celebrate thanksgiving but just our little family and the occasional friend) and more… so many no’s… let’s not even talk about all the stuff they’ll be missing as they get older (like sports and high school stuff), but one of the no’s I regretted most was Halloween cause I loved it growing up, it’s the biggest kid’s holiday in my book. So to be able to take them trick or treating was so exciting (and a little emotional, but I’m just a total emo lately).

To be honest it was a little depressing too, from my point of view. When we lived in Milan no one trick or treated (save for one lone kid in my building, who I fussed over every year), but since moving to Cuneo a few kids have come every year, actually it seems that every year there are more. So I figured it was “done” here and since this year my kids were old enough, the weather was acceptable (you can read about last year’s Halloween experience here), and we had a couple of friends to join us, off trick or treating we went.

Very few houses opened their doors, those who did basically handed one kid out of the group a small handful of “grown-up candies”, clearly stuff they happened to have lying around their house at that very moment, and grunting went back in. No comments on costumes, no pretense of being frightened, no acknowledgement of the kids (and grown ups) in their get ups, honestly it would almost have been better if they hadn’t opened their doors at all.

Thankfully all the shop owners in our little town square were handing out candy and making a big deal of it so the kids were happy and excited and I managed to swallow some of my anger. But it got me wondering if all the trick or treaters I get (and there are many, considering we’re in Italy) just go to the shops and then my house cause I’ve got it decked out (relatively, just a few cobwebs and spiders and a couple jack’o’lanterns) cause ringing at all the other houses is frankly pretty depressing.

The husband, ever the problem solver, suggested next year we put letters in all our neighbors’ mailboxes explaining what Halloween is about and what they’re supposed to do possibly adding a Halloween themed sticker in the letter that they can put out on their doorbell if they want to participate (and actually hand out candy – not last Easter’s tiny easter eggs) so the kids know where to go. A sort of Halloween handbook if you will.

I’m totally doing it, I’m also pretty sure they’re going to hate us... but what the hell, just look at these faces:

The Boy had his pirate costume from saturday's party on and decided at the last minute he wanted to be Thor.

The Girl is a cat today because saturday's wonder woman costume would've been covered by her coat (there's a tail back there too...)

Our first "Trick or Treat" or as they say in Italian: Dolcetto o Scherzetto.

We'd had no luck so far, you can tell by our dejected pace. Also, that red thing on my butt is my tail...

This is where we got stale easter eggs

no answer

No answer, just some curtain twitching.

So sad... where's my candy... meow...

Life is looking up... got some candy! (also, this picture was taken about 30 seconds before she threw up all over me and herself. Though after a quick wardrobe change - ears and tail still intact - we joined the others again and finished up at the shops.)

We're happy here, we got a decent stash!!

P.S. Tomorrow you’ll find me guest posting at Taming Insanity, check it out!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Killing me softly

Bedtime is killing me. Night after night it’s slowly making me lose my will to live. How humanity has survived for thousand’s of years with toddlers and preschoolers and their bedtime antics is beyond me. Every night, every friggin’ night my kids, my sweet well-behaved kids, turn into these tiny sanity sucking monsters that make me want to run screaming for our wolf infested hills. I don’t understand what the universe is telling me with this. Is it some sort of cosmic challenge we need to face as parents to reach nirvana?

So this is what goes down at my house: we have dinner, and everything is normal, a little whining will occur occasionally, maybe a cry for some dinner time tv, but at this point everyone still inhabits their own bodies and my kids are relatively normal albeit a little tired. Then we move on to bath time. Bath time is usually fun, some splashing, a lot of me yelling at them to keep the water into the bathtub and not onto the floor, a few admonitions for them not to drink the scummy bathwater, but all is still right in our world. After bath everyone has a warm drink and teeth-brushing, peeing and clothes picking for school ensues. And as I utter the sentence “ok, last call, bedtime. Everybody get in bed” my kids transform, before my very eyes, into a couple of odious, weepy, whiny, annoying imps that I simply cannot stand.

The Girl will start to cry, doing a weird floppy-legged, bouncing her tush up and down, arm flailing move, reaching out to me, wailing “Maaaaamaaaaaa” like I’m the last thing she sees as she falls off a cliff unto certain death. The Boy, not to miss out on any of the melodrama, starts crying for his binky (that is in his mouth), for me to stay one more minute, for some juice. I edge out of the door, cheerfully calling goodnight, like all is normal in my world. Five minutes later the girl starts flinging herself against the crib sides, choking and sputtering like she’s getting ready to throw up her milk, the boy wails with an ever mounting crescendo “Mama, I want Mama”, like he’s been abandoned in an orphanage in Eastern Europe. I go in, they pathetically ask for water, as if I had ever refused them a drink, so I wipe noses, clean off tears and distribute drinks. I leave, everything is quiet, I’m hopeful. I go shower.
The second I step out of the shower, someone’s calling me, they have to poop, or pee, or have pooped and I need to change a diaper. I get them settled and leave. They cry, they’re dying of thirst, they need water. They drink, I leave.

One’s quiet, the other calls me, he dropped his lovey he can’t sleep. I leave. The other one calls me, she’s got eight hundred stuffed animals in her bed, she can’t sleep. I put them back on the shelf, I leave. And then one needs to be covered. The other one is hot and can’t get out of the covers alone. Then they need water again, but they also need to pee, or a diaper change.
One more kiss, I’m lonely, I need a hug. Mama, can I have some waaaaattttteeeeeerrrrr?
Night after night, they are slowly driving me crazy. How, I ask you, HOW has humanity managed to survive? Because I tell you, running in there and screaming “shut the fuck up and go to sleep” isn’t working, for me or for them (I’ve tried). I’m starting to think that parenting is one of those survival of the fittest challenges, and it’s slowly, slowly killing me.

In fact, as I write this, it’s 11.48pm, they both finally shut up and went to sleep a couple of hours ago and the girl just woke up again and is calling me. She probably needs water. Or a diaper change.

And in the silence of our darkened and sleeping (for the most part) house all you hear is the thud, thud, thud of me banging my head against the wall.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Virtual Coffee {26}

Hello dear friends, and welcome to coffee. I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since our last virtual coffee together! (I’m refraining from segueing with “where has the time flown” as we’re not quite eighty yet…) Let’s get our favorite topic, the weather, out of the way first, shall we? Our crazy climatic conditions continue (oh, how I love alliterations!), you may remember we had a pretty cool and dreary summer, an inexplicably hot September and about 5 minutes of autumn. Today it has started snowing. Yes, snowing.

Of course it’s not snow snow yet it’s still that gross, slushy, wet thing that looks like snow coming down, splatters on your windshield but then turns to water as soon as it hits the ground. Up where the husband works (which is also where I go and pretend to work a couple days a week), it’s actually snowing, real snow. Which is fantastic because since the leaves haven’t finished falling off the trees yet the tree branches get really heavy with snow and break off. This is so great on so many levels! Let’s see, well first you have to watch where you park because those lovely falling branches tend to land on parked cars, and there’s no point trying to park away from the trees as we work on a mountain covered in pine and chestnut trees. Also, the branches like to fall on telephone lines, which is so exciting cause then we get to work with no phones for months and months because we live in a beautiful albeit completely inefficient country (see how I switched those around?) where it takes the phone company three months to come repair our phone lines. (Three months is not an estimate or an ironic exaggeration of reality, it actually happened just like this two years ago when it also started snowing way ahead of time). Unfortunately, I won’t be able to go visit this winter wonderland we call our workplace because I haven’t finished fishing out all our winter stuff from storage, and the husband can’t seriously expect me to go work and risk catching a cold cause am inappropriately dressed now can he!

Setting sarcasm aside, the past few weeks have been both crappy and great, since I’ve posted on the crappy enough this week let’s talk about the great. The husband and I went off on a wonderful weekend getaway to Milan two weekends ago. A weekend in a nice hotel was my birthday present, and since we had a really good friend’s fortieth birthday to celebrate we decided to treat ourselves to some child-free time. It was wonderful, and very, very strange. We simply aren’t used to being without two very short, needy, hilarious and cuddly people all the time, so we kept looking around for them all weekend. It was fun spending time alone in a city we loved and lived in for many years. It brought us back to the early years of our marriage and to another life of dinners in nice restaurants, aperitifs in chic bars, of buzzing in and out of beautiful shops with nary a care in the world. It was also nice being pampered in a lovely hotel, of course we had forgotten how snooty people in the service industry were in Milan, but all in all we had a great time. Oh, and did I mention I did some shopping? Ahem, let’s leave it at that.

I’m still waiting on my other birthday present, which was supposed to be a KitchenAid all-purpose mixer/blender thingy, but isn’t cause I already have one (that’s another, less design-y brand) that works fine and has all the attachment pieces already, and so was swapped with a Le Creuset pot. I’ve been coveting one of these for years, and am very excited to try all the wonderful roasts and stews in it. If only my husband would get his act together  and take me to buy it (hint, hint, wink, cough).

Ok, my coffee’s gotten cold and all the dreary wet snow outside is making me sleepy so I’m done rambling on today. How’s about you? What have you been up to? Do you own a le creuset or a kitchen aid, would you recommend them to your friends?

Now go visit our hostess Amy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Got milk?

I’ve been on a quest of sorts lately, one with no clear path or objective… basically I’ve been running around with no rhyme nor purpose, trying to find something to make me feel better and I ended up fixating on food. Food to make me feel better, food to help the husband get better and food to make us all healthier – a tall order one would say. 

In my typical haphazard manner I landed on the concept of “real food”. Real food is a terrible moniker if ever there was one, in my opinion, but it’s established, recognizable, and easily searchable if you’re so inclined so that’s how I will refer to it henceforth. So, to give you an idea of what in tarnation I’m talking about I’m going to borrow the words of one of my favorite blogs on the subject: Cheeseslave in answer to the question “What is a real foodie?”: “A “real foodie” is someone who cooks “traditional” food. We cook stuff from scratch using real ingredients, like raw milk, grass-fed beef, eggs from chickens that run around outdoors, whole grains, sourdough and yogurt starters, mineral-rich sea salt, and natural sweeteners like honey and real maple syrup.
We don’t use modern foods that are either fake, super-refined, or denatured. This includes modern vegetable oils like Crisco and margarine, soy milk, meat from factory farms, pasteurized milk from cows eating corn and soybeans, refined white flour, factory-made sweeteners like HFCS or even refined white sugar, or commercial yeast. We believe in eating wholesome, nutrient-dense foods that come from nature. So we shop at farmer’s markets or buy direct from the farmer, or we grow food in our own backyards.”
I’m not exactly a “real foodie” according to the definition above, but I already had a tendency towards this way of eating and now I’m simply looking into it more deeply and trying to apply it more thoroughly. I’ll delve into the subject better in the future but instead of proselytizing (there are many blogs who do so far better than I ever could, so I’ll start listing them here and in future posts for your reference) I’ve decided to just jump right in and talk about the practical aspect of it from my point of view.

It took me awhile to wrap my head around the concept of real food, and I’m yet learning a lot about it, but it makes sense to me, and though I’m not proposing foregoing junk food in my life forever, I am now, at least, making a conscious effort to recognize it as such and to make a cursory effort to avoid it as much as I possibly can.

In any case, today what I really want to talk about is milk. I’ve always been a milk hater. Until recently I hadn’t drunk milk since… well I don’t remember, but a very young age. Milk - the smell, the texture of milk has always pretty much disgusted me. If you’re heating milk on the stove I have to leave the room cause it makes me gag. Yes, that bad. But then Nina Planck turned me onto the wonders of raw milk (from grass-fed, free to roam and pasture, happy and contented cows) and I had to test it because, seems that raw milk is to pasteurized milk what a cow is to outer space. So I went searching for it, thinking it would be a long and arduous quest as apparently in the US it’s frowned upon, much like marijuana is frowned upon. Not so where I live, one not only need not search very far it’s perfectly legal (unlike, alas, marijuana) and quite conveniently sold in places such as this:

Just a regular storefront.

Where you are greeted by them:

(just in case you where wondering exactly where it comes from and what it’s primary purpose is)

All manner of informative material awaits you:
What cows eat, do and become.

The sign on the left shows some of the things you can do with raw milk.

As apparently does a fair savings as a liter of milk costs about one euro (not the lowest price out there but on the lower spectrum of supermarket prices).

You can bring your own glass bottles or buy the plastic ones there for 0.20cents (shown above). And next to the milk dispenser there's a sign stating when the cows were milked and when it expires. (There's also a sign that encourages you to boil it before drinking it, but we drink it raw - except for the husband who's immune system is suppressed)

The process is easy, convenient and unbelievably sanitary:
milk dispenser

you stick your bottle in and close the door and the blue light apparently keeps things sterile, though, of course, you're responsible for the cleanliness of your own bottle.

you put in the amount of money you want depending on how much milk you need - 1€ for 1 lt,  50cents for half a litre, 20cents for 200ml - doesn't matter how much, and then you press start and the milk starts a'flowin'.


and a-flowin'

then you take your bottle out

cap it and admire the results of your labor.

They also serve other raw milk products like yoghurts (which are objectively much tastier than anything I've ever bought at the grocery store), mozzarella, ricotta cheese and the like.

cheeses and stuff

lovely yoghurts

And it all comes from a farm near here, I haven't visited it yet, but I will soon. So now we’re hooked. I even drink the stuff myself though I still prefer it in other forms (like butter, cream, yoghurt, and cheese), and, just in case you were wondering, it tastes and smells nothing like pasteurized, homogenized milk. 

Would you ever consider drinking raw milk?

Just a few of the many, many resources to learn more about real food (in no particular order):