Thursday, July 19, 2007

What in/around my desk is 4 cm long?

The metal end to a key--before you get to the rounded bit at the top.
A small paper clip--not a big one.
The plastic lid to a flash drive.

And...that's about it. I thought I'd be able to find more, but everything else is bigger.
A bottle of white out is 7.5 cm.
The cap to a Sharpie is 5 cm is the big paper clip.

Four centimeters is TINY.
So please excuse the quality of this photo. I've blown it up so that you can MAYBE make out that there is a 4cm-long baby growing in my belly. Hanging out on a hammock--is how Jack describes this fetal pose.

Do you see it above the white "hammock"? It looks like it has a speech bubble coming out of its mouth. I think that's it. It seemed so much clearer when it was on the tv.

Even though I'm only two months along, the doctors thought it was a good idea to get a sonogram (ecografia) before we left for the states. Since it's so tiny, it is not possible to know if it's a boy or a girl. But Jack likes to be surprised nobody will know until approximately February 9. The doctor counted limbs, length, heartbeat, and other things I couldn't translate. There were no problems, and the baby seems healthy.

The only bad side so far to being pregnant is that I've developed a horrible aversion to Italian food. ALL Italian food. I can't stand to see it, smell it, think about it. I know technically there's no such thing as "Italian food." There are so many regional differences that you call it Tuscan food or Roman food, etc. My problem, however, seems to be that I can't stand cooked tomatoes, sliced meats, sausage, most cheeses, and oil. If you have any suggestions for what a girl in Rome can eat without those ingredients, I'd love to hear them. Until I go home I'll continue with my rotation of burger, chicken, veal. All with mashed potatoes.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Il Palio in Siena

Forget the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain--that's been taken over by wine-soaked American college boys and drunk Australians getting their kicks Hemmingway-style. Il Palio--probably the shortest horserace in the world--is the real deal.

And it's a bare-backed race.

Held on the 2nd of July and the 16th of August in Siena, Tuscany, Italy, the race and its pageantry looks the same as it must have 400 years ago, when they stated racing in the smallish main piazza called the Piazza del Campo.

The view of the piazza on a normal day.

Before that, in the 1400s, the horses would scamper all through town. When the race moved to the Campo, the small track only had room for 10 of the 17 neighborhoods, or contrade, to race at a time. The confusing arrangement of guaranteed spots and lottery draws keep a different blend of 10 of the 17 racing each time. Actually, it's even more confusing than this sounds: there is room only for 9 horses to line up on the track. The 10th horse lingers behind the lineup and starts the race while running an arc behind the pack. It's very confusing and a nightmare of timing to get all the horses together at the right time. In this race there are no starting gates, just authentic Italian orderly chaos.

The joy of Il Palio is its timelessness. The only souvenirs being hawked are the banners of the 17 contrade. Each contrada has its own banner and its own rival. When all is said and done, one contrada losing is not as painful as that contrada's rival winning it all. Tears flow from the old and the young when this happens.

The morning of each Palio starts with a practice run, followed by the blessing of the horses--in the church. It's considered good luck if the horse poops--in the church.

The contrade are:
Aquila (Eagle), Bruco (Caterpillar), Chiocciola (Snail), Civetta (Owl), Drago (Dragon), Giraffa (Giraffe), Istrice (Porcupine), Leocorno (Unicorn), Lupa (She-Wolf), Nicchio (Shell), Oca (Goose), Onda (Wave), Pantera (Panther), Selva (Forest), Tartuca (Tortoise), Torre (Tower) and Valdimontone (Ram)

And the winner this July 2 was...nope, not yet.

The entire piazza goes berserk when the race starts. The whole race consists of 3 laps around the rim of the piazza and lasts less than a few minutes. A horse can lose it's rider and still win, as long as the horse still has the Contrada insignia on its head when it crosses the finish line. It only ends when the cannons fire, signaling the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place crossings, at which point the berserk factor goes way, way up. The winning horse is taken to a nearby church to have its hooves painted gold. Yep, gold.

The party goes on all night.

Nora, Brandy, my visiting father Patrick, and I braved the crowds and craziness and had an incredible time. We've never been so crowded for so long. Once in the piazza, you pretty much are stuck until after the race. No running to the bathroom, no breathing room for the mildly claustrophobic (Brandy), and no place to sit down (sorry, Dad). You just tough it out and see the most exciting race in the world.

This July, the exciting race was won by Oca, the goose.

See more at:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Best Souvenir from Italy

This is a very strange way to spread the news, but here it is:

This is Brandy's belly with our baby inside. We're all very excited and Nora is out-of-her-mind with happiness to finally be a big sister. She promises not to torment him-her. He or she will appear sometime around Valentine's Day, 2008, so plan your February trip to Italy.


Jack, Brandy, and Nora