Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Farewells Have Begun

On Saturday evening, we went to Piano D'Api, the part of Acireale where my parents lived for their first three years in Sicily. We swung by our old landlord's house to say hello and good bye. We only intended for a quick visit but ended up staying for over an hour chatting and playing with their gatto (cat). Luciana, Rossana, Alfio and Pepe are very kind people and are always so accommodating. Within minutes of being in their home, Luciana and Rossana were feeding me cookies and ice cream. My dad mentioned that I loved pasta so on a whim Luciana whipped up a batch of farfalline with olive oil and parmesan cheese and both her and Rossana fed it to me and I gobbled it down like I've never eaten before.
After my impromptu pasta dinner, we went to Josie's house to bid farewell. Josie and her husband Salvatore, who sadly died last year, lived next door to my parents and immediately took my parents in as family. My parents spent every holiday, birthday and Sunday family dinner with Josie and her family. Despite the language barrier, we always laugh a lot with this family. We will miss Nora, Tony, Josie, Alessio & Emanuele and hope they will visit us in America.
Before heading home, we stopped by our old neighborhood pizza place Antica Pizzeria and got the Focacce Diavola, which is baked Italian bread with tomato, mozzarella cheese, spicy salami, oregano, olive oil and pepper tucked inside—oh, so delicious.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sicilian Thanksgiving

In honor of our last Thanksgiving in Sicily, we stuffed the turkey with pasta. Il tacchino con la pasta รจ la sciocchezza! Last year for my first Thanksgiving, I tried mashed up solid food for the first time. Now I'm eating big boy food and mastering the fork and spoon. Check out my grip and serious concentration. We invited our Italian friends, Rita and Luciano, over for Thanksgiving dinner to experience our American holiday. My dad has been promising to make Luciano my Mimi's French Onion Soup so in addition to all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, we also indulged in rich, cheesy soup. We stuffed ourselves silly! It was a day of good food and good company. We have so much to be thankful for... especially stretchy pants!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Casa Di Bina

I've been going to Bina's house since I was three months old and Bina has become like a nonna (grandmother) to me. She is a nurturer, a kind person and a silly lady all rolled into one beautiful package with a smile that lights up a room. I adore her.
This morning Mom worked up the courage and told Bina that we're definitely leaving the first week of January. Bina said the news brought her heart much pain and both Mom and Bina broke down and cried. We will never find another babysitter like Bina. She will be missed dearly.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Want A Massage Right Now!

This morning I took off my shirt and handed my Mom some moisturizer. If I could speak in full sentences I would have said, "Concentrate mostly on my shoulders, put some muscle into it and don't try to skimp. I paid you for a full 60 minutes woman!"

Playdates With Ella & Aja

Lately, we can't get enough of Ella and Aja. We meet them on Tuesdays and Thursdays at base to workout and then have lunch at Applebees and now we've incorporated Monday morning playtime at their house. I'm going to miss playing with Ella (and pushing her around!) and Mom is going to miss chatting and laughing with Aja. It's going to be tough saying arrivederci to these two ladies!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Relocating to America!

My father signed a new contract and needs to report to his new job by January 20th. We'll be moving ourselves, our household and two dogs over the Atlantic the first week of January. After ten years of living in Europe, we're excited (and a little nervous!) for the change. I'm not going to tell you where we are going, but I will give you a hint...

Bee Movie

This afternoon I went to see the Bee Movie. This is the first time my parents have taken me to a movie since I was an infant. You might remember when they took me to see my first movie, The Da Vinci Code. They also took me to see Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, but I slept through those movies. Today was the first movie they took me to see for my enjoyment. I actually lasted longer than my parents expected- a whole 40 minutes! That was enough time for me to suck down a Capri-Sun orange juice, empty a bag of popcorn on the floor, laugh at the big screen whenever the big kids laughed, and then have a major meltdown because my parents wouldn't let me run around in the aisles. Not too bad for an 18-month-old!

Saturday, November 17, 2007


It's how I keep my far away (and close by) family and friends up to date with my life happenings. Technology is sweet!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Un Amico Nuovo

This morning we went to the hospital to meet a brand new friend. Our friends Leah & Michael had a baby boy Sunday evening. His name is Andrew and he's absolutely beautiful. When Mom held the baby she just couldn't believe I was once that small. Andrew already has his own blog, Call Me Frankie. Welcome to the world little guy.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Morning Snuggle

There are moments when Mom feels like ripping her hair out because it seems like all she does all day is defuse one temper tantrum after another and then there are moments when we snuggle in our pajamas and I fall asleep on her lap that remind her that it's all worth it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pavlov's Dog

This is the view from our kitchen balcony. Please refrain from being so jealous of our beautiful Italian panorama. I bet you thought we sipped cappuccinos overlooking something similar to the landscape in Under the Tuscan Sun? Well, this is reality! But our view is not what this post is about. If you look closely, you’ll see a German Shepard behind the truck. She is the guard dog for the medal works business next door. When we first moved into this apartment in Motta, she was mean and skinny. After two years of our leftovers, she has become fat and happy. She has even inherited Bruco and Paolo's old beds and toys. Similar to Pavlov's dogs, she has become conditioned. When we open our kitchen door, she runs to the fence, wags her tail and looks up to the sky for raining food. In a few months when we move away from here, the leftovers will stop and we know she will miss the food storms and we will miss her salivating face.

Sicilian Oil Spill Disaster of 2007

All of Bina and Antonio's olive oil is GONE—Poof! There has been a terrible accident. The olive oil was stored in a 50 liter barrel in their backyard. Antonio tied a plastic baggie around the nozzle to prevent any dripping. Not a drop to be wasted... The stuff is like liquid gold! Well, their upstairs tenant's dog, Gedda, detected something delicious inside the baggie and bit at the bag forcing the nozzle to open and drain a whole year's worth of olive oil onto the ground! Bina called it "brutto giorno" (an ugly day) and Antonio looked like he wanted to cry. All that back-breaking work of picking olives and hauling them to the press was wasted. Poor Bina and Antonio!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Olive Oil You Too

Antonio and Bina have several olive trees in their backyard and have spent the past couple of days picking all the ripe olives. This afternoon they invited us to come along to watch their olives be pressed into olive oil.
The giant yellow bin pictured below holds Bina and Antonio's olives. It cost them €30 (about $43) to process the whole batch and that should produce enough fresh olive oil to last their family one year. Italians are very serious about their olive oil. They use it in everything!
The process seemed simple: First the olives go through a machine that shakes off the leaves and stems. Second, the olives get washed. Then the olives get smashed and finally the smashed olives go through a press turning it into delicious olive oil. I'm sure it's a little more complicated than that, but that's all of Bina's Italian that we could understand.
Did you know that if you mouth the words "olive juice" it looks the same as mouthing the words "I love you"? Many years ago when my parents first starting dating, they both worked as bartenders at a bar called Hubb’s in Orlando. One night at work, Mom thought it would be clever to mouth "olive juice" to my Dad to see his reaction. If he didn’t say "I love you" back then she could be all like, "I was just saying olive juice!" Anyway, Mom screwed it up and actually mouthed "olive oil". Dad had known about this foolish "olive juice" ploy but hadn't had anyone try it on him since the 6th grade. He knew what she was up to and responded, "You are such a dork! Olive oil you too!" And the rest is history...

Friday, November 02, 2007

I See Dead People—Seriously!

Today is "Giorno dei Morti" or "Day of the Dead" in Italy. Today, Italians remember their dead ancestors and visit their graves with flowers and candles. In the morning, children find presents brought to them by the dead. This tradition is a way of keeping the memory of the dead alive. Rather than fear death, Italians embrace the circle of life by passing on the connection with their ancestors to their children. This morning I found a new toy car from my ancestors—Grazie. Amo le macchina di gioco! When we were in Palermo a few weeks ago, we visited the Capuchin catacombs. Since today is the "Day of the Dead", I thought it would be a fitting day to tell you about it. Although morbid, it was fascinating to see more than 8,000 mummified bodies on display dating as far back as 1599. Many of the corpses still had hair and skin and some of them had jaws wide open as if they were screaming. It was pretty creepy. Perhaps the creepiest is the corpse of 2-year-old Rosalia, who died in 1920. She still appears so lifelike that locals call her "Sleeping Beauty". Rosalia's incredible preservation was done by a doctor who used a secret process which he never divulged before his death.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Tanti Auguri Bruco!

Bruco turned 4 years old today. That means he’s 28 in dog years! We surprised him with a T-bone steak dinner to celebrate and I gave him the best gift of all by calling him by his name. I really called him “Coco”, but that’s close enough! There is of course a story of how Bruco became a Balent and of course I’m going to tell you about it… When something terrible happens in life, my Mom says to wait a year later and then take a step back from the situation and find the good that came out of it. It never fails; she can always find something good as a result. Bruco is the “good”. Three years ago, my parents lost a dog here in Sicily. I don’t mean “lost” as in the euphemism for death; I mean literally “lost” a dog. While my parents were in London for a weekend, their Italian Greyhound Remi ran away from the person who was watching her. My parents searched day and night, hung thousands of flyers, placed ads in newspapers and on television but days turned into months and months turned into years and Remi never came home. Not knowing the fate of Remi was devastating to my parents. My Mom took it especially hard and swore her heart would never recover.

About a year after Remi’s disappearance, my parents got an email from a woman who saw the missing dog picture in the newspaper. The woman said she had an Italian Greyhound that looked similar to Remi except it was a boy. She could no longer care for the dog and wanted my parents to take him. Bruco did look a lot like Remi but he was nothing like Remi. Remi was timid and Bruco was aggressive. He snapped at people, he barked insistently, and he growled often. My parents had their reservations, but adopted Bruco because they felt that he needed them just as much as they needed him. With lots of love, patience and training, my parents broke that tough exterior and found a loyal friend and a great little snuggler. Bruco could never replace Remi but his love has helped my parents' hearts heal. Happy Birthday Bruco! Thank you for finding us. You are our “good”.