My husband and I have a running joke about the existence of Mars Bars. I don’t believe they are still made and I have NEVER seen one. My husband believes they are still out there and that they are delicious. Since this conversation a year ago, we have both spent a few minutes in every store that carries candy bars checking for Mars Bars. This has happened in many different places. It started in California and continues in Italia! During my first shopping mall adventure in Italia, I found a Mars Bar. I was so excited to purchase this present for my husband and to finally find out what the hype was all about! Matt not being the chocolate freak that I am did not instantly open the candy bar. It took several days before he actually opened it. The anticipation was killing me!! When I took my first bite of this candy bar that was described as delicious even though he couldn’t remember exactly what was in them, I was oddly reminded of a Milky Way. Yep, the European “Mars Bar” is just a Milky Way. The search continues.
lunedì 13 febbraio 2012
I am hoping this is a phase and things will change again soon but I have a very clingy baby. She does not want to be alone for any amount of time and mostly wants to be held. She has also decided she doesn’t like to nap for more than 12 minutes unless you are holding her. Because of this, the packing and cleaning has slowed even more! I have learned there are things I can do one handed and things I just can’t do. I have learned that making a bed can be one handed (messy but at least I am making it, mom would be so proud) but changing sheets cannot be completed one handed. I can cook with one hand. Not all things but a lot of things. I can sometimes entertain her with a spoon or her high chair while cooking.
I can fold some laundry one handed-no way with sheets. I can type emails with one hand but I cannot type my blog with one hand. I can feed the dog, let her out and give her treats with one hand. Lucy is very happy about this! I cannot clean anything with anything more than water and a paper towel one hand because she will try to grab the chemicals. I can’t clean the fire place with one hand, much too messy! Dishes can’t be washed one handed but unloading the dishwasher can be done with one hand…it takes a lot longer! I can do the laundry with one hand.
I am amazed and wonder how mothers through the years have been able to accomplish anything while taking care of the baby. Housekeeping is not my strength, just ask my mom. I have tried hard to become more organized and maintain a tidy house. This is a goal I am currently not able to obtain. I am impressed of all the other mothers who are able to keep a nice house and a happy healthy baby! Kudos to you-any tips for me??
Pubblicato da Langleys in Lederhosen a 02:58
mercoledì 8 febbraio 2012
In America, there is a standard plug for all outlets. Everyone knows that the plugs in Europe are different from the plugs in America (right? you did know that?). Matt explained the difference between the 110 and 220 in appliances and how some appliances will work with an adapter and some will only work with the converter. He told me I was not allowed to plug anything in without getting approval first! Instead of waiting for approval on everything, he taught me where to look for the information (110,220 or dual). If it is 110 only (this is standard in most American appliances) it must be plugged into the converter. If it is 110/220 (or dual voltage) you can just use a plug adapter. If it is 220, you should just be able to plug it in. Sounds simple enough, right??
One of the first purchases for the house was adapters. This would make the American plugs work in the Italian outlets. While we were shopping for these, we realized there were lots of different choices. So we bought 5 of one kind and 5 of the other kind. We have two converters. One is designated for the television, surround sound, and DVD (would have been the Wii but I didn’t bring it). The other one is going to be designated for the kitchen for the coffee pot, the crock pot, the blender for making my weight watcher smoothies. (I am down 13.5 pounds!).
In our house, we have two different size outlets. Some of the outlets the prongs are closer together and the rest the prongs are wider apart. While we bought 10 adapters, only 5 actually fit our outlets. I went back to the exchange to buy adapters that will make American plugs work in the wider European outlets. But they don’t carry these. The guy said to plug the one adapter (American to small European) into the other adapter (small European to big European). Immediately this made me think of Clark and the Christmas lights!
Because of the craziness with the adapters/converters I decided things like an iron, the toaster, and a hair dryer worth buying new ones that are 220. It would make life easier. But I was wrong!
The new appliances have a DIFFERENT size plug! So now I have to find an adapter that takes the narrow but thick prongs and becomes big European! I was flabbergasted by the variety in the outlets, the plugs, and the adapters! I just assumed that there would be a standard European outlet but I was definitely wrong!!
Those pictures are from the Internet. I was too lazy to go and take my own pictures. This is just a taste of the MANY different adapters we have!
Pubblicato da Langleys in Lederhosen a 12:13
martedì 7 febbraio 2012
This is not very exciting. I tried to make it funny and exciting several different times but just couldn't. I figured I would still share it in case anyone who is moving overseas is reading this blog.
I may be new to living overseas but the Navy is not. The base has been here for a while (no idea how longJ) and some things have been simplified to help the military members acclimate quickly to the new area. There is an understanding that the first two months of your time in Italy will be spent looking for houses, setting up your utilities, moving into your house, and not really getting started on your new job. As a new mom, I am very glad this was the case otherwise the baby and I would have had to do lots of things on our own. The process is clearly laid out-find the house, pre-contract, inspection, lease signing, move in. And there is an entire department to help with utilities since we are not Italian speaking.
To make it easier, there is a hotel on base (the Navy Lodge) which is referred to as TLA (because you get a temporary living allowance). Every newcomer stays here which is located on the Support Site. It’s walking distance from all the things you need at first. There is even a bus that goes to Capodichino for those days when you have to work but you don’t have a car. Or when you have to work and you don’t want to use your own gas! Everyone who has stayed in TLA has a secret little understanding of this place. We lived in TLA for 49 days (max allowed is 60). We were fortunate because of the dog that we actually had a villa: a two bedroom, two baths, a full kitchen, a balcony, and a living room. Most TLA accomodiations are a one room hotel room with a mini kitchen. This doesn’t sound terrible but after 30 days you are really ready for your own stuff. And after 40 days you want out. And after 50 days, I don’t know what happens since we didn’t get there! Living in TLA is a great time to spend lots of time with your family because there is not much else you can do. You can watch the AFN (Armed Forces Network) which shows American television (yippee!) but really cheesy commercials. Or you can sort coupons. Or fold laundry.
While living in TLA, you must pay your bill every ten days. And then you must submit your bill to housing and PSD (not sure what this stands for) so that you can get reimbursed. You will get reimbursed for the full amount and a little extra for food which I think is pretty awesome of the Navy to do. GO NAVY! During the time in TLA, you must prove that you are actively searching for a place to live by looking at houses with realtors. This is not hard to do because there are lots of realtors and everyone really wants to get out of TLA. We went out with 4 different realtors. As soon as you find your place, it will still be a month before you get to move out of TLA.
We found our house 17 December. I thought we were doing great since we found our place in less than three weeks. Luckily, I didn’t believe that things would go easily and figured it would take a long time until we got into the house because of the holidays. Ironically, it was not the holidays that really made it a long time!
We found the house on a Saturday and Matt called Monday to make an appointment to have a meeting to set a hold on the house. YEP-we had to make an appointment to say this is the house we want and we want to make an appointment to have a pre-contract. Ridiculous I know! So we did this but after requesting an appointment you have to wait until the landlord provides all the necessary documents before we can actual schedule the pre-contract. He brought all the paperwork but forgot one thing by the Friday but they still would not make the appointment until they had the paper! We finally got our appointment for the pre-contract 2 January.
Pre-contract is a meeting where the landlord and the housing representatives and the tenants meet to discuss what we want. For example, the landlord did not want to pay for water, even though it is required. We wanted to have the garage door be automatic. We asked for a dryer hookup (gas) in the bathroom or the kitchen. We agree on the price and set up an appointment for the inspection. A tip for all new people: be more aggressive with your contract. We were very happy with our house and didn’t ask for much and we didn’t think about some of the little details. For example, there is an alarm system (which is required by the Navy) but we found out after we moved in that it only works when you leave the house. Of course we didn’t negotiate an alarm that works while you are in the house because we didn’t know it wouldn’t work until later. So check the little things like that and ask for everything.
Surprisingly, the inspection was set for two days later. This was the quickest part of the process! Everyone said that the first time, the house will fail. Matt told them he wanted to be part of the inspection. He even skipped work (remember it doesn’t really count as skipping as long as you are doing something related to house hunting!). We waited and finally about noon Matt called housing to find out. For whatever reason, they did not call us before the inspection, which passed! I think that if they had called, we would have learned about the alarm system and other little details about the house, such as all the lights blink like a strobe light when you turn them on. And Matt says that if he had been there, the house would have failed inspection because of him!
Now that the house has passed inspection we must again make an appointment to go and sign the lease with the housing people, the landlords, and the tenants. This time you have to bring two months’ rent in cash. It took a few hours because you have to sign 5 copies of the lease! Matt read every word on the lease (the English words at least) and we double checked that things were going to happen like we wanted. After you sign the lease, you have 5 days to get your electricity turned on and then you move in. Our move in date was 18 January…exactly 32 days after we found the place. And we passed inspection the first time! This is not a quick process!
After the lease signing, we go through the appliance check out and we signed up to receive washer, dryer (not gas cause it didn’t work out), refrigerator, kitchen hutch, 4 wardrobes, 2 converters, and a deep freeze. These will all be delivered on the same day as we move out of TLA, the power should be turned on, and our household goods are delivered. Immediately after signing out the appliances, we are told to rush over to the NEX for the residential services. Here we sign up for electricity, internet, phone, and anything else you might need in your house.
This is a tricky little situation. You need to quickly get your electricity turned on because you are getting kicked out of TLA in 5 business days. You don’t speak Italian so you don’t really know how to contact the ENEL (Power Company) to get it turned on without using the services provided. The NEX residential service seems too good to be true! You go there and tell them when you want your power and internet turned on and they do all the work. They even translate and pay the bills for you. Unfortunately, there are a lot of little tidbits we did not know beforehand. For example, the NEX requires a deposit for the phone/internet (you must get both) and a deposit for the electricity. They also charge a fee to translate/pay your bill. That is reasonable but they actually charge you PER bill. So we are paying people monthly to pay our bills, which come ever TWO months. This part really made me mad but there was not really another option, unless I could quickly learn Italian so I could do it on my own! You have to pay for convenience. If you noticed that we pay monthly even though we are billed every other month, you might wonder what we are being charged. The months that are not billed by the Italian utilities we are charged an estimate based on other previous usage. Again, I am a bit flummoxed by this but it is not worth the hassle to try to find another way.
While signing up for the internet and electricity, we find out that there is a technical problem with the internet and they have NO clue when it will be fixed or when we can expect to get the internet. He tells us to call back in ten days. Ten days later I go into the NEX to ask about the situation and he says that it is fixed and he will check the list. I am currently not on the list so he can’t tell me when I will get internet. I asked him when can I get on the list and he said he has no control, the phone company does that part. I asked him how I get on the list. He says they call you and tell you when you are on the list. I wanted to know that I was on the list to be called whenever they were ready to put me on the schedule and he couldn’t seem to understand. Finally, I was able to find out that I was on the list to get service but they had not scheduled a time yet. He thought schedule and list were the same thing and I did not!
So everything is set for us to move in on the 18 January.
Things I learned from this process:
1. It is important to be flexible and enjoy the difference in the cultural approach to renting a home.
2. I am cheap. I don’t like paying extra for things. I don’t like having large deposits because other people skip out on bills (how do you skip out on a bill when you work for the military I am not sure)
3. You need to take a little more time examining the details of the home you like.
4. Ask for the moon. Most likely you will get it.
5. They do not pro-rate here. Your lease starts on whatever day you sign and that will be the day you pay the bill from then on.
6. The Italians are not big phone people. The entire country does not use voicemail. It costs extra to have a voice mailbox on your cell. And they do not try to call repeatedly. They call once and that counts as calling all day. (This we found out during the inspection). Also, Vodafone (the cell phone service on the base which most people use out of convenience) is not the greatest service so you will often not have a signal. These two situations (no signal, and only attempting once without leaving a message) means you must be aggressive if you want to know something. Call, call again, and call one more time!
Pubblicato da Langleys in Lederhosen a 00:55
venerdì 3 febbraio 2012
I may sound a little naïve but I never thought about how sounds might be different in Europe. I know the basics, like the sirens on the polizia sound different from watching National Lampoon’s European Vacation (look kids, Big Ben, Parliament) but I didn’t think anything of it. Now that I am here, many of the sounds are different. The first time our doorbell rang, we didn’t know what was happening. I can’t even really describe the sound. And when our gate phone sounded, it was a new sound that we both stopped and looked at each other. Luckily the screen on the phone lights up so we were able to figure that one out pretty quickly. The dog barks at the timer on the stove because she has no clue what that sound means! I think the one I felt the most “blonde” about was the phone. When we were in TLA on Little America, I had to call to find out about the baby’s doctor. Simple enough task right? I looked up the number and picked up the phone to dial. Before I dialed, I checked with the front desk to make sure I was using the right phone number (there are two numbers for each base phone-one that is DSN and one that is commercial. You can only call the DSN from other DSN numbers and the commercial from cells and local lines.) Then I dialed the number. It made a weird sound that sounded like a busy signal or maybe when a phone number is not dialed correctly. I quickly hung up and tried another number. The sound was the same. I put the phone down and then I thought I would try the first number again and not hang up immediately…..good thing I did. The sound that was the busy signal was actually the phone ringing! OOPS! I really felt pretty stupid after that event. I am not even sure why I am sharing this moment of shame…maybe it will help the next poor soul who can’t figure out why the phone makes different sounds!
Pubblicato da Langleys in Lederhosen a 05:38
giovedì 2 febbraio 2012
That is the number of days we have lived out of suitcases. It has been a very interesting, exciting, and trying time. I had to contain myself to the same two suitcases from October 7 until November 30. From that point on, I figured if we overflowed our suitcase, it was okay because we would be moving it to our new place in our truck by ourselves. No charge for extra heavy suitcases. No charge for extra baggage. And not everything had to be zipped in a suitcase. There was a reason the commissary gives you double bags on everything!
Packing for four months of living out of suitcases is very challenging. Especially when you are going from San Diego to Napoli. San Diego is the same temperature (pretty much) year round. You don’t have thick winter coats, wool sweaters or long johns. From San Diego, we went to North Carolina for the Fall. Fall can be anything from 80 degrees to 30 degrees. Needless to say that is hard to pack for. And Napoli in the winter is cold. With a very cold wind. Getting clothes for all those climates to fit into two medium sized suitcases is hard enough. Now add the fact that I just had a baby. So maternity clothes are necessary. And there was no way of telling how the weight was going to come off. And I don’t have warm clothes in the post baby weight size (or really any size for that matter…I need to update my winter wardrobe BIG time). So I did my best, and I would give me a B- or C+. In North Carolina I bought new jeans to replace my old ratty ones. And the maternity jeans because they were driving me nuts. I also had to buy a pair of black slacks because there was no way I was going to fit in the two pairs of nice slacks I had. I had to buy two new sweaters because I brought a cute sweater dress and a cute sweater with a tie. Neither top is good for nursing. And I didn’t have any warm sweaters or a warm coat.
Shoes are another issue all together. You can’t bring many pairs and lose the precious luggage space but you need to have shoes for different events: 8K race, baptism, football games, shopping with the sister in law. So I had sneakers, UGGs (truly ugly UGGs), flip flops (I can’t leave home without them as they are my preferred footwear), and a pair of practical black shoes which my mom made me throw away and replace. I had to borrow shoes for the baptism from my niece!! A tip for all you flip flop wearers-you will need to bring more than four pairs of socks. I wore holes in my socks wearing shoes everyday and socks on the cold tile floor!
Luckily, we had Christmas in the 104 days so I got some new tops to wear but I will tell you I have never been so sick of my clothes. But at least the baby had lots of stylish clothes and lots of variety!I may have a new least favorite number!!
Pubblicato da Langleys in Lederhosen a 10:09
We have a baby that is 4 months old. It seems like just yesterday I was stressing because she was late and we were not going to have enough time to get her Visa and passport! Now she is 14.33 pounds and 24.7 inches long. She lives in Italy and loves the Italian language. Every time we are out in town, people will talk to us about the baby. Whenever they lean in to talk to the baby, she gets the biggest grin on her face. She loves listening to people speak Italian. It is not the same with English, at all. She likes when we talk to her and get close. She smiles when Americans smile at her and gush over her big cheeks. But just listening to the Italians speaking at the next table makes her smile. To watch her listen to the language will make you smile.
We have an easy going baby.
She has flown, ridden in cars, trains, boats, and buses, been all over the place! She is happy in most situations. She sat through four days of area orientation in a freezing cold room with very minimal crying. She does well in restaurants. She did well with house hunting. She didn’t do well with housing but I think it was because she was tired of waiting for her stuff! She loves her stroller and her carseat and her pack and play. She loves her ERGO (except for four days straight). Another thing the baby loves is her pacifier. Matt said it is very appropriately named. She will be screaming and you put the pacifier in her mouth and see her body relax. It truly pacifies her!
I feel very blessed to have a mellow and easy going baby. She takes naps on the floor (the tile floor with only a thick blanket and a mat). Her favorite toy is one of the rings to clip toys to the play mat. I think the most difficult thing about the baby is she doesn’t like to be alone. This means you can’t put her in the swing and go do the laundry or the dishes. To do the dishes, she must be in the kitchen with you. This makes doing housework slightly more complex…or gives me an excuse not to do it!! She also does not love broccoli or caffeine (sad).
She does not seem to care if we unpack quickly. She seems to believe we are gypsies and there is no reason to unpack her suitcase!!
Soon she will get her own room. We built the dresser (from the evil IKEA trip), her crib (much easier than you would imagine!) and washed her bedding. I am thinking about what I want to do to the walls to complete the nursery….so many ideas and definitely not the right use of my time right now! But she can’t go in her room because there is no heater. So this beautiful and comfortable crib is just waiting for the baby who will love it.
The landlord agrees to install an electric heater in the baby’s room and does it fairly promptly. Unfortunately, handymen in Italy are not necessarily tidy and do not typically clean up the mess when they complete the project. So this means rewashing the baby’s bedding and recleaning her room. Now her room is almost ready for her to sleep in her crib at night…the question is, am I ready??
If I ever finish unpacking and get to paint and decorate her room, I will post pictures of the completed nursery. I have several ideas, just no time!! Now I understand why people get the nursery ready BEFORE the baby!!
Pubblicato da Langleys in Lederhosen a 09:23
Okay, so that is not true. It is actually a cold, wet, and miserable day in the neighborhood but I had a lovely outing with my neighbors. Our parco, or street, or cul de sac (not sure what you would call it) has four townhouses. Three are rented to military people and one is an Italian lady. Right above us, our friends from TLA moved so we have several different friendly faces around. Melissa, the veteran of the group who has lived her for six months took the two newbies, Gina and me to see some of the local gems near us. We drove to Carney Park (a mini base that has all the park type things and will be super fun to go in the spring/summer), the JFC (Joint Force Command) base that has a post office and ATM that is much closer than the SS or Capodichino, the Metro which is more like a Sam’s, the ipercoop which is a grocery store, showed us several other markets, a trustworthy car repair man, a good veterinarian, and a good pasticceria with good canolis! We also had a nice lunch at the Friends’ Café…and yes it is based off the TV show. Of course when it comes time to go to any of these places, I will have to ask her for directions again but I feel slightly more aware of my surroundings.
When I got home, I was rocking the baby to sleep and I feel asleep in the glider before she did!! I decided that meant I needed to not unpack the boxes and take a nap instead. So I took a little nap with the dog and baby. I just still felt a chill. I was under the covers and I turned the heater on. I turned it up a little bit. I was just starting to feel the room warm up when the heater stopped making noises. I hesitated because I didn’t want it to be true. After two minutes, I had to admit the power was out and I needed to get out of the semi-warm bed to investigate. This is not the first time the power has gone out so I knew how to check the box in the house. I flipped the switches and nothing happened. At this point, I decided I would call my neighbor since she could help me immediately. She had her 14 year old son come and watch the baby, and walked me to the street to learn how to flip the switch at the street level. Unfortunately all the power boxes had little blinking lights but ours. We flipped the switch just to make sure. So the walk back to the house (did I mention it was raining?), we discussed the situation. Is it possible ENEL, the electricity company, turned our power off for some reason? So we packed up the baby and I walked back down to her house. Of course, the baby is hungry at this point. So I try to call Matt and my phone has decided it will not make any phone calls. Seriously?? I needed my phone for the first time and it didn’t want to work for me?? I guess this is karma for all the phone calls I didn’t answer in the States. So I started to feed the baby and Melissa called Suzy our realtor (whose number I did not have until today). She told her she would call the landlord and get back to us. As we are waiting and enjoying the view even in the ugly weather, I finally was able to get my phone to call after restarting it. I called Matt and he suggested I call NEX Residential Services. The lady there told me that I must have used too much electricity and it shut down and would take 20 minutes before we could reset it. Of course this is not true because I had one heater, the refrigerator, and the freezer on, but it had been twenty minutes so we would reset and see. Leaving the baby with her 14 year old son (who did a very nice job of entertaining the baby!!), we started to walk back to our house and our local handyman, Vitale arrived. He spent probably 5 minutes on the back porch, got the power back on, and told me there was a problem that he would fix tomorrow. While this was going on, Rita (the Italian neighbor) and Melissa were walking to the street to check the box up there. As the handyman was leaving, Rita yelled at him…I think because he wasn’t fixing it right now and was coming back tomorrow. She even had some hand gestures. I couldn’t help but laugh and smile! So, I know have power and Melissa built me a fire while I was calling Matt to update him. Although, there are many boxes to be unpacked, dinner to be made, things to be cleaned, or projects I want to start for my baby’s room or my friend’s new babies….I am sitting by the fire blogging and listening to my daughter chat with her bear blanket. Quoting my husband: Life does not suck, (even with all the craziness)!!
Pubblicato da Langleys in Lederhosen a 08:52
mercoledì 1 febbraio 2012
There is SOO much to blog about and not enough time with unpacking and the baby and houseguests, I decided to start with one that is easier to write. So the next several posts will be out of sequence but you get the picture!
I don’t think truly ever experienced a strike, except in bowling when I am trying desperately for the third strike to get a turkey! Italians know how to strike. But at least they are considerate enough to give you warning. This week (23 January- 27 January) was the five day nationwide Trucker’s strike. The truckers’ are striking because the new prime minister increased the tax on gas and diesel. This can’t be good for business! The truckers planned to block all the major Autostradas and especially block the toll booths. Very wise play I think. People avoid the strike areas and therefore the government does not get the L1-2 toll.
When I first heard about the strike, from my favorite news source, Facebook, I didn’t think too much about it. There was an airline strike the day we went to Venezia from 13:00-16:00 and it didn’t affect our 18:00 flight. This strike was different. Monday, when it started, Matt and I drove to the airport (where he works) and then I took the baby to the Support Site (SS-Little America) for her 4 month doctor’s appointment. How did she become 4 months already!??! Everything was normal. After the doctor’s appointment and doing some other random errands in Little America, I drove back to the airport with no major issues. After a quick lunch and updating Matt on the baby’s appointment, we got in the truck and headed home. We were trying to get home in time to meet with our realtor and trusty handyman (I think he will make lots of appearances in future posts). So of course, we encounter the truckers’ strike. At first, we thought it was just a traffic jam because “trucks” in Italy are anything bigger than a Mini Cooper. They were pulled over in one of the lanes on the highway and all the drivers were out on the street. The drivers were all talking on cell phones and carrying nice murses and wearing lots of fancy clothing.
The strike went on for the rest of the week. Because of the strike, our wardrobes and freezer were not delivered on Tuesday (they came in a truck). By Friday, it had pretty much died down in Napoli but the rest of the Italia was going strong. Because of the strike gas stations ran out of gas and lots of the grocery stores ran out of supplies. Luckily, Matt kept the truck full and we had gone to the grocery store on Monday!
I lived through the first of many strikes.
Gas station attendants strike coming in February. This one could get ugly.
Pubblicato da Langleys in Lederhosen a 11:09