Tuesday, November 25, 2014

OOPS I did it again
I invited 35 people to our house for Thanksgiving.
Nah, that's all I got for you right now.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Big 15th birthday weekend

I love T's friends Natasha and Giorgia. There can never be enough giggling in the house as far as I am concerned. Plus who else is going to help us polish off the death by chocolate oreo cake that we had for dessert?

Night one: chocohotopots. Thank you, Niglla Lawson. You have changed our lives for the better.
Night 2: death by chocolate oreo cake

candles lit . . .

wish made . . .

friends happy . . .

girl happy . . .

Mission accomplished.
 On Sunday I went to hear my boss sing songs about Jesus. I was feeling very full of love for her because it turns out that according to some obscure Italian rule, I am getting paid 10 euros more an hour for the intensive course I taught  in September. So bassically while I've been unemployed, I've been making money. If that won't make you go out to hear This little light of mine on a Sunday night, nothing will.

My boss is the third one in from the right.
It was very, very cold in the church. You don't know what the expression chilled to the bone means until you sit in a medieval stone structure in a town that is so humid that we virtually have a monopoly on frizzy hair and damp laundry.

Here is the film about the African village that our donations were going to help. I feel like the donation will really get there because the priest is a friend of the choir group who really does good work.

Unfortunately, the choir leader was not dissuaded by the fact that his voice was completely distorted by the microphone. He still described every single song before and after they sang it.  He was also not dissuaded by the fact that the video of Africa was inaudible. I know this because I asked the tipo sitting next to me if it was just unfathomable to me or if real Italians couldn't understand it either. He affirmed that it did sound like some adult talking to the Italian Charlie Brown.

Here's my boss's solo:
Here is the African village video footage. Good luck understanding it:

Saturday, November 22, 2014

T turns 15
 T has had some pretty sweet birthdays and birthday parties in her life. Here are some throwback photos that makes me smile.

T'sr birthday came on a Friday this year which would be great . . . if we were in America. In Italy, it is not great because there is school on Saturday and because Friday is the day that everyone is burnt out and wishes that they went to school in America. The good news is that T had planned the perfect birthday outfit to wear to school. The bad news is that one of the stones on the embellished v-neck fell off at the last minute and started to unravel so she had to scramble and was late to school. The good news is she got there before the professor did the roll call. The bad news is that the math teacher upon finding out that it was T's birthday was unimpressed and pointed out that it was sure to be someone's birthday more or less every day. Nice. Therefore, she decided that it was okay to interrogate T in math on her birthday. T's friend Natasha pointed out that this was soooo rude and I agree. The good news is that T knew that it was going to happen. The bad news is that she knew it was going to happen. The great news is that when she went to the blackboard she did get the math problem right. The crappy news is that the professor didn't like the way she explained how she got the right answer in Italian and didn't give her as high a grade as she deserved. On an upnote she got a grade high enough to make her feel on good footing in math for the moment.

Super sweet was the fact that her classmates, who did not step up when they had the option to be interrogated in her place, did make the lovely gesture of writing her cheery birthday messages on the dry erase board. A little sour was the professor who had a heart attack about all the ink they were using since the school has only dryed up marks that the teacher has to wet to get any mileage out of them. In her defense, when she found out that it was in honor of T's birthday, she did say that if the last bit of ink were to be used up at least that was a decent reason.

T's friends Natasha and Giorgia came over for a burrito and chocohotopot dinner and T opened her presents. I have decided to adopt all of these tall girls and keep them hostage until they agree to watch Clueless and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Those are my terms and I'm not budging on them.

I have the best girl in the world and she is fifteen. I did all kinds of bad things when I was 15. Good thing we moved to this weird time warp medieval village in Europe where even trouble doesn't even know where to find you on its GPS.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I woke up like this!
So I'm sure you have a pair of embarrassing pajamas. Right? Am I the only one? It's humid and chilly here and so last night I put on a Uniqlo heat trapping camisole, a black long sleeved nightshirt, and these completely formless elephant pants that I wear underneath. Last night I had this awful nightmare that woke me up and I had to read to get back to sleep. When I woke up this morning, the house was empty. I drank some cold coffee that F had left for me probably an hour or so earlier and then the bell rang. I ignored it. But this guy was persistent. He probably rang twelve times. There is a note on our doorbell that says to leave packages with the restaurant next door for just this reason, but they are closed on Wednesday. I finally buzzed, hoping that the regular post lady would just throw the mail at the bottom of the stairs as she has started to do because I am often in a dishevelled state, if truth be known. Anyway, this was a new guy. He was um young-ish. Anyway, I peeped around the corner and saw him at the bottom of the stairs with his little pad and I asked if he could come back in five minutes. He said no. I asked if he could come back in two minutes. He said no. He said he would come up the stairs to my door. That doesn't help me, I said. Okay, give me five seconds. In those five seconds, I did not change out of my ugly pajamas or even splash water on my face. I literally just panicked for five seconds and then opened the door saying that I was sorry and that I had a cold. He looked at me and my makeup-less, tangled self with a face so full of pity that it would have broken your heart. Of course that made things worse. For me. But it was T's birthday present so I tried to tell myself it was worth it.

You would think that after that I would have gotten washed and dressed. But I didn't. I brushed my teeth and got back into bed. I had to read People magazine on-line in peace and check that I was up to date on Pinterest before moving on with my day. That is when the buzzer rang. I buzzed thinking that it was no good to hide because the delivery guy already knew that I was home. So dumb. It was a team of people in business attire with attache cases asking to come upstairs. They were being official in Italian. I didn't understand the part where they asked if I was the main name on the lease the first time so instead of saying that I didn't understand, I said that I didn't hear that part well. This seemed to piss the guy off and he asked when my husband would be back, stopped being polite and slammed the door. The well dressed woman that accompanied him seemed sympathetic after I explained that I was home with a cold. I am not home with a cold, mind you. I'm home with ugly pajamas and no make-up, but you know. I didn't think I would be appearing on C'e' Posta Per Te  this morning so . . . .

Wait. Back up. Let me add that when the buzzer rang the second time I was reading an article on Refinery29 called The World's 13 Most Embarrassing Sex Scenes. Don't judge.

Anyway, yesterday I decided that it was time to leave the house and go be social. This is something I do every four months where I chat with everyone I know who works in stores. This is half of the people I know so it takes a while, but I like to maintain relationships. F took my picture before I went out because I was feeling jaunty in my new jacket. And, yes, this is my attempt to make myself feel better for the ugly pajamas incident. . . Can I push the button for the emergency trapdoor, please?
You didn't think I was going to take an ugly pajama selfie, did you?

On the other hand, Maria de Filippi wore her ugly pajamas to work. She has really given up on this job, hasn't she? I mean she sits on the stairs with this horrendous posture for the entire show, which, granted, does go on for hours, but I mean there are hair and make-up people on staff. . . This shirt has actual artless paint smears all over it. This is what I wore for the first five months of T's life, but what is her excuse? That's it! I need a talk show.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sister Act
 F got to see his sister Regan for the first time in seven years and they had a total of 24 hours together. This is them making the most of it. In order to mark this special occasion the Universe saw it fit to make a giant double rainbow in the sky.

T, me, and Regan. I am so very short.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cozy November and the F bomb
So, this week's X Factor Italia started out with the host walking out to a recorded track that was a couple of notes and then as the curtain opened they dropped the F bomb.

Based on the stuff they play over the loudspeakers at the Esselunga supermarket, you would have to deduce that Italians don't know any English curse words. This beyond being so much fun, works in my favor in that my hip hop middle schooler's iPod ate all of his music and so I am making him a 3 hour-long CD of really explicit rap music that he assures me his mother can't understand at all. He stopped by the house unannounced today rambling some kind of story about how he promised the song names to his dance teacher; and I found myself emailing my iTunes list to his mother's email account at her office and then frantically cancelling the ones that had the F bomb in the title or that said explicit well.. er.. um explicitally.

I am also making all of these books of English lessons for F to teach and organizing everything so that we don't have to reinvent the wheel everytime we have to take a course or frantically chase down the same hand-outs we need or rewrite the syllabus. I love the Internet, no matter what you say. What did English teachers do before? I vaguely remember something about the dewey decimal system and libraries. I am also going to take some of his students so he can be freed up because now that my 80 hour course has concluded, I don't have much else on my plate. I feel mildly guilty, but it has been nice to workout for an hour, meditate, not wear any makeup and be pretty much stress free for this whole week. Eventually I'll get hired again by the English school, but they pushed back my courses until January because they didn't have enough takers.

I am trying this experiment that has T calling me a hippie, and not in a good way. I am trying to rid the house of toxic detergents and make our own vinegar and baking soda. I also gave up shampoo and am trying to find a conditioner without sillicone in it. I smell like salad and so does the  house. I drink apple cider vinegar, use it on my skin, and now I clean with it so I am, as T says, officially one of those kind of people. But one thing about going natural is that you save a ton of money.

Lucca is rainy most days in November so it is very cozy. F brings us home la zuppa frantoiana which is a really yummy vegetable soup and we put parmigiano and peperoncino on top. It is so good.

T's school is having this time that they call co-gestione where there are no official classes for four days and the students can sign up for these elective options. If you pick the wrong option, you can find yourself being interrogated by a senior student or a teacher you don't even know in front of a room full of people. If you pick a good option, you can end up watching a cool movie and not having to work at all. T played hooky for day one with her friend and it made me very nostalgic for when I played hooky back in the day for some reason. I found myself saying, Don't go to school tomorrow either. . . Once in a while I remember who I am and go, Oh right, I'm the mother.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Beer, butter, and the deceased
T finally contributes to the blog:

 "We had to read an article on the pros and cons of Halloween for school. Somehow it ends up talking about the Italian attitude towards death:

Non sappiamo accettare la morte come gli indiani o gli arabi; non sappiamo ricordarla come gli ebrei; non riusciamo a sorriderne come gli inglesi. Stiamo tentando allora di esorcizzarla come gli americani, che sono bravissimi a proporre la versione light della cose. Birra, burro o defunti: se è leggero, se ne consuma di più. Certo.

- Severgnini Beppe

"We don't know how to accept death like the Indians or the Arabs; we don't know how to remember it like Jews; we can't make light of it like the English. So we try to exorcise it like Americans, who are great at offering up the light version of things. Beer, butter and the deceased: if it's light, you can consume more of it."


T keeps repeating this new mantra at random moments during meal times. She must have been giggling over it at school too because her classmate Camilla wrote it on T's hand in permanent marker like a tattoo. Occhio I said like a tattoo.

T has also shared with us that the professors use 30 sided dice to call on students to be interrogated. T is number nine so she crosses everything hoping that number nine never shows up so she doesn't have to speak Italian in front of the whole class.

My friend Nazarena's mother and I apparently have similar taste in Italian television programs, so although we have never met we exchange information through Nazarena. That is why I found myself watching a talent show modelled after the Spanish Tu Si' Que Vales which I guess means Yes, You are Worth Something. The whole premise of the show is that the acts are so bad that the judges need these white, la-Z boy, remote control reclining chairs. They have to really hate the act to gong it because that entails getting their lazy behinds out of the reclining chairs and walking a ridiculous distance to this virtual hourglass that responds to their gonging it, thus taking away the rest of the contestant's performance time. It's not X factor, but it will do in a pinch.

Anyway, I was pretty amazed to find that there is an extreme sport that is going to be the death of a ton of young thrill seekers that I had never imagined possible. It is called the FlyBoard and it was pretty shocking to see for the first time. Maria de Filippi, (and, yes, she is the host of every show in Italy), and her crew of judges including soccer star Francesco Totti went to an outdoor pool for this one. These guys are on skateboards without wheels that are driven around by these spooky driver-less motor boats that have fireman hoses attached to the skateboards. All of the sudden the guys are hoisted way high into the air by the jets of water and begin flying like happy dolphin. It is so trippy. I'm a little obsessed. Check it out. The last clip is the best:

Friday, November 07, 2014

caveman style
So I have been following this skin care blog The Love Vitamin. It is so popular that there is now a  whole skin care bootcamp program being offered, and I just had to get in there. The blog creator Tracy Raftl has completely revampled my skin care regimen and my way of thinking about the skin I'm in. Here are some of the big revelatory highlights:

For starters, less is more. I don't want to think about the wasted money, effort, and tears, but this is how simple a regimen can be. First thing in the morning, just splash cold water on your face. That's it. Then at night, I use manuka honey for its antibacterial properties to cleanse with. While my face is wet I smooth on some jojoba oil and then take away some of it with cool water. Any inflamed or broken out skin can be treated with aloe vera. That's it. I, personally, add also tamanu oil and st. john's worts oil to the spots with hyperpigmentation because these three euro oils work better than the 80 euro Clinique serum I had been buying with my (imaginary) skincare fund money.
Day 14 . . .

This is called the modified caveman method. The real deal is something Tracy was the guinea pig for which is not letting your face touch water for a whole 28 days. And although her experiment gave her great results, I don't know if or when I would be so brave. The idea is that your facial skin regenerates every 28 days so that if you don't wash it for that long, you end up with this kind of mask of dead skin that then comes off to reveal a beautiful layer from underneath. This new layer has an acid mantle that protects it from acne. So all of the expensive peels and creams that I have been using since I was thirteen have only served to ruin that defense mechanism and create a dependence on useless products.

My emotional take away is that the less fuss in the routine, the less stress; and the less stress, the better your chances are to have clear skin anyway. Fingers crossed.

I feel like I can start reading the Sue Orzman column again in O magazine without it bringing up feelings of enormous guilt. My beauty routine, including hair care (since I quit going to beauty parlors on the regular) is now officially super budget friendly and DIY. Before we moved to Tuscany, I worried about what I would do in a new country if my skin went back to it's old tricks and I didn't have a dermatologist or any of my usual lotions and potions available. As usual, worrying about a problem in advance is not a sure fire way of solving anything. Lucky, I'm getting smarter over time and not just better looking. (Kidding.)  But seriously, I'm not afraid to say, "Well, that's another thing I've been doing wrong for the last couple of decades."

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Today T's school had an assembly day where her class saw the movie Thank You For Smoking. Her school is so weird. If I understood correctly, it was a great hit with the 15 year old boys who couldn't watch Katie Holmes getting boned enough times. Yup, that was there great take away from the movie: thrusting technique . It did nothing to discourage them from their smoking habits, however.

In further news, during said assembly it was pointed out that the school has a number of structural integrity issues apart from the fact that, as I have mentioned, there are only three toilet stalls for 200 kids and no doors on the stalls or toilet paper. There are huge holes where rain comes in and one wall that is so moldy that you can poke through it with your index finger. They covered it with dry wall, but that, of course, does nothing but change it's color. In addition, they have no money to pay substitute teachers so sometimes they were told that they will not have instruction -- to which one student, a girl, replied, "So what are we supposed to do in that case? Sit around and scratch our balls??" So that is where our Italian tax dollars are going.

We are all glad that the big giant 4 day long mess/casino they call Lucca Comics is over and here's why:

As a friend of mine pointed out, we are really lucky this is a convention of well mannered geeks instead of, say, soccer enthusiasts.

Remember how I used to tell that the season had changed by the television in commercials in America. For example I knew it was spring in Brooklyn when the Cadbury egg commerical came on. In Italy you can tell right away that winter is coming and here's how -- they turn on the air conditioning in the Uomini &  Donne (equivalent of the American show The Bachelor)  studio. Look at the contestants and how cold they look:

Cheer up, Italian bachlorette #7!
Your scarf is not a talisman, lady.