Monday, February 28, 2011

Coming soon to Catania...

When I picked up this flier from the mail the other day I was so excited it was pathetic. But I just can't help myself. I felt the same way when H&M opened last year. These international chains are like comfort food to the native born consumer that I am. You enter in one and you could be anywhere in the world. Focusing on whatever bargin there is to be hunted for, it is easy to forget that your home is now a Mediterranean island. And while IKEA is full of many things I have no use for, it is also full of lots of potentially useful things that I can't seem to easily find here. Like bright, colorful fabrics. All those containers for organizing whatever piles of papers and other junk that accumulate in makeshift spots all over the house. I don't think I'll be the very first in line at the new IKEA's grand opening on March 9th, but I bet I won't be able to hold out for very long. Pathetic!

Abstract Paintings

Sunday, February 27, 2011

In the garden

Here's what we've been eating A LOT of lately....

The freshness of veggies from your own garden can't been beat, it's just hard to consume so much of the same vegetable all at once. We've been giving some away, but also trying to find creative ways to eat cauliflower. We've been eating it raw, steamed, sauteed, in soup, with and without pasta, in a souffle, and I'm ready to try a curried version as we are running out of variations (any one have any good recipe suggestions?).

And here are my constant companions during the outdoor forays into our garden on sunny days.

We've recently planted some berry bushes (raspberry, blueberry, and black berry). Our strawberry patch does very well, but not sure if these varieties will actually be able to thrive and produce fruit in this climate. But who can resist the thought of picking fresh berries from their own backyard, so thought it would be fun to try! Also can't wait to see if the wisteria we planted last year will blossom this year! Yes, I am itching for spring!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sicilian inspiration

Thanks to my 3 year old's active imagination, we have become a Sicilian puppet obsessed household: playing with miniature puppets, role playing knights and kings and princesses and dragons and all that, seeing puppet shows, reading about puppet shows, watching u-tube videos of puppet shows, and now, since I have not been able to find any children's books on the subject, I have gotten it into my head to create one myself. Nothing elaborate, just a simple story about the most well-known characters of the Sicilian puppet world: Orlando (Roland in English) and Rinaldo. According to legend, the two were cousins, nephews of Charlemagne and the strongest knights of Charlemagne's army. This illustration of Orlando will probably be a little guide to his most important features: always dressed in red silks, a large black mustache, a dove on top of his helmet, a famous sword that is said to have originally belonged to Hector of Troy. Fortunately with all the pupi we have in the house it is easy to find models to sketch from!

Friday, February 18, 2011


I had no idea it was such an important week for birds until I read Lucia's great post. It reminded me of the few memorable bird-related photos I have taken in the last several years (just a handful, really). By no means am I an expert and I do not have a zoom lens for my camera so in most cases the birds appear disappointingly distant. But, those rare moments where I have been at the right place just at the right time to be able to capture some memory of a few special bird sightings is exciting all the same. So, here is my very small tribute to birds. And thanks, Lucia, for inspiring me to dig up these old photos!

I saw this large bird (I think it is a hawk, correct me if I am wrong anyone) sitting on the post of a house as we were driving past. I made my husband stop and back up so I could take this picture -- it was such a surprise to see it there and I couldn't believe I was able to pick it out of the scenery from a moving car. This was taken somewhere on the road home to Aci Castello after a visit to I Portali shopping center in San Giovanni la Punta.

What did my little boy spy peering through the bars of this drain in Aci Reale's Belvedere Park?

This hidden bird's nest!

Moving on to Turkey, here, perched on the left side of the telephone pole you will see an adorable little owl. He could sit there for hours. At night his screeches would wake me up. At dusk and dawn he could be seen hopping around in the fields hunting.

I have no idea what this colorful bird is called. These birds would usually be seen when driving through the Turkish countryside at dawn or dusk. They would be sitting on the roads in groups and would scatter away as soon as the roar of the car approached. Their green-blue feathers always caught my eye and I would strain to catch a fleeting glimpse of them on these long drives. So you can imagine my surprise when we had a chance to see one of these birds up close in our village's muddy watering hole. The poor thing was hurt and after venturing up close for a good photo we left it alone as it was obviously frightened. I hope it managed to recover and return to its feathered flock.

Monday, February 14, 2011

To the snow

Our 'white week' in the snow was the warmest in years according to the locals. Nothing but blue skies and sun. A gentle way to ease back into one of my favorite pastimes of my younger years. I don't mean sound old but this was my first time back on skis in about 20 years. 'Just like riding a bike' I was told countless times, and to my great surprise it really was. After a one-hour lesson and several hours of getting the feel for the sport, it was like I had never stopped. I could never have anticipated that I would enjoy the movement, the speed, the wind in-face and snow spraying and all that, but I really loved it. And that was just a bonus since the real reason for the trip was for the little boy to get his fill on winter wonderland, something he has been asking about for some time ('I want the snow to fall on my head' is one recent quote). With those sunny skies, no snow landed on our heads, but there is nothing cuter than seeing a 3 year old wearing little tiny skis, bundled up in those snow clothes, and happily snow plowing between the legs of the ski instructor along with the other midget skiers. The ski resort was small, but given the beauty of the Alps, the easy access to the slopes, and the excellent ski school, we didn't mind. We hardly left Montecampione, but on our last day visited the UNESCO world heritage site of Valcamonica for a walk through the woods to experience the prehistoric rock incisions the area is famous for. We were completely blown away by the beauty of these timeless images of deer, people, houses, carts and other more mysterious renderings. If only we had more time for exploring the area.