After 4 years in Germany (more than 10% of my life,) some German habits were bound to stick. We eat muesli almost literally every day (to be clear, we completely literally eat the muesli. It is the everyday part that is only almost literal. In case you thought that every day we’re like, ‘OMG, we like totally almost literally ate that muesli! Can you imagine? OMG.’

This post will be short because I have to go and because you don’t really need more of the above word nerding, but I did want to let you know that I have not yet transitioned the children to the classic Italian breakfast of a cappuccino and a sweet roll despite the fact that Frida is desperate for espresso. We’ve come as far as automatically pushing our cups over to her to let her smell them before we have a sip, and she’ll lick the demitasse spoon in a heartbeat if you let her.

It probably goes without saying that my 25-year-old self is furiously embarrassed  at how many Kindercinos* I’ve ordered with a straight face. So uncool, Betsy, so uncool. See also: I just hired a housekeeper because “it’s a good way for me to learn Italian.” I almost literally want to literally slap myself**.


*aka. a Babycino: steamed milk with milk foam and sometimes a sprinkle of cocoa. I learned today that in New Zealand these are called ‘Fluffys’.

**about the slapping, it’s kind of to make sure this whole handsome-husband-big-house-fast-car-two-kids-and-a-nanny life isn’t a wonderful dream, and kind of because who is this suburban housewife sellout and where’s my funny, angry, principled, anti-capitalist Betsy?

I’m Sorry, It’s Simply Impossible

The mystery of the haybath is solved: disposable underwear. Last week was the first time I had a hay bath and the first time I wore a comfortable strapless bra. Too bad it was paper.  I brought it home anyway.

The hay experience was a relaxing one: I lay atop two pillow-sized steaming hot muslin bags of hay, was covered in warm towels and more hay, and just steeped for 30 minutes or so while the spa lady massaged my face. Smelled great, didn’t itch, sold!

We’ve been living in Italy a week now and are settling in, by which of course I mean eating gelato every day, eating pasta every day, and beginning to think that goats smell like goat cheese rather than vice versa.

The ties to food production here are incredible: lots of farmer’s markets with real live farmers, a huge selection of local salami, cheese, produce, and wine. During today’s bike ride, we stopped at the little dairy in the middle of Monza’s big park. The dairy has about 30 cows, 20 goats, a few horses, and lots of chickens. The farmers were demonstrating the curd formation part of cheese production. To do this, they brought their milk warmer out to a shady area outside, warmed up the milk, added rennet or acid, and stirred a few minutes until curds formed. I thought the show was over at that point, but no: they brought out a bucket of water and had the kids in the crowd wash their hands. As each kid dunked their hands in the bucket, they were given a small cup-like plastic sieve. They scooped up some curds, drained them for a second, and viola! Cheese! Their cup was placed in a plastic bag, they were given a little activity booklet about cheese production, and they were done. A very slick operation, lots of fun for the kids, and some pretty tasty fresh cheese. We ate ours ahem Frida’s right afterwards while it was still warm.

Having a bit of a background in the U.S. food service industry, the demonstration was a little shocking: no waivers, no hairnets, no soap, no running water, no hand washing for the adults who inevitably helped the kids scoop the curds out of the too-high vat, no parents politely trying to find a discreet trash can in which to pitch the contaminated cheese. Parts of living in Italy are ridiculously hard (accessing care for Max, the loneliness that comes with not having friends or speaking Italian yet,) but I think we’re going to love it here.

p.s. When’s a good time to restart work? Right during an international relocation? Yes! A beloved colleague is on emergency medical leave, so I was called out of retirement to pitch in. Forgive me for not posting more frequently; I’m a tad overcommitted at the moment. Did I mention that Tobias leaves for Oslo in 3 hours and will be gone until Thursday? Luckily I’m just doing some very part-time consulting, and only for the next few months. Otherwise I’d think I was an idiot for adding work to my full-time job of getting the washer working so that I can launder the bathmat some kid just puked on. In the same vein, remember that time I thought I could manage this move while pregnant? Hahahaha.

Cultural Differences: Spa Edition

Dear Mom, Dear Rachel W., Dear Nan and George and Anyone Who Has Shorn Sheep or Bucked Hay,

I am having some misgivings about the farm stay that I booked for Tobias, Mariam (the au pair) and the kids next week. The idea was that they would get a little vacation at the foot of the Italian Alps while I managed the household goods removal, and that I would meet them there for a few days while the goods were being shipped to their/our new home. I imagined that at the farm the family would be playing with friendly Italian animals and eating delicious farm-made cheeses while I was marking boxes someone else packed. Wins all around, right? And as a bonus, the farm stay has a nice spa. Perfect for my weary muscles after watching professional movers pack up all of our crap, and nice for Tobias and Mariam after a long day of running after the kids. The spa has a steam sauna, a dry sauna, a plunge pool, and several services like massages. Here’s where it gets weird. Additional services include:

  • A bath made more wholesome and rejuvenatory by the addition of fresh milk from the farm. In the spa advertisement, you see a lovely young woman pouring a 5-liter metal canister of fresh milk into a steaming bath, with goats looking benevolently on in the background. Because that’s goat’s milk. Because your bath didn’t smell enough like goats.
  • A treatment that involves you lying on a warm table, nude or with a swimsuit on, and the same nice woman piling freshly gathered dry alpine hay on you from chin to toe. Once you’re stacked about two feet deep, she’ll lay another warm blanket on top, presumably to complete the luxuriously relaxing feeling of having hay under your shirt. I’ll be doing this one al fresco because what with the move and all I don’t really have time to be picking bits of hay out of my bathing suit.
  • If the hay didn’t trigger your histamines, how about lying on the same table in the same swim- or birthday-suit, and being covered with newly shorn wool? Fresh off its last job as a sheep’s only defense from sun, wind, rain, snow, and the larger insect breeds, this wool promises to share with you its beneficial oils. Vice versa I’m sure.

The TripAdvisor reviews on this place were universally fantastic, which either means that TripAdvisor reviewers know a joke spa menu when they see one, or that goat baths, hay pilings and sheep oil treatments are indeed both relaxing and effective. Pictures here; note that apparently it is the Italian custom to bathe while wearing one’s bathing suit. Hard to argue, really.


In the spirit of ingenuity and comfort, a tip I forgot in last month’s round-up: when trying to swallow a particularly large pill, put a little water in your mouth, drop the pill in, then tip your head forward (chin down,) and swallow. Counterintuitive, but it works every time without that awful ohgoditsnotgoingdownitsstuckimdying moment. Shout out to Ben Tyner, First Husband and Creator of This Website, for coming up with the method. Dude is creative!