Tuesday, February 28, 2012

After the storm

There was a really big storm that rattled us last week. Powerful winds and heavy rains. Flooding was predicted and did occur in parts of Catania and Messina, but overall not as bad as other flooding that has happened recently in Sicily. As a precaution, schools were closed for two days. Other than flickering lights and intermittent internet connection we felt quite safe inside our house. But the day after, the bashing the yard had taken was pretty dramatic. The yard is built directly on top of lava rock, meaning that the roots of the tall trees cannot anchor down too deep in what is quite shallow soil. The worst was a 60 year old pine tree that toppled the morning after the storm after having been partially uprooted. Luckily it fell towards the street and not the house. A lot of smaller pines ended up being quite crooked, as well as the loquat tree. A cracked wall, a thick carpet of pine needles covering everything, a few small potted plants ending up in unexpected places, a large cactus is quite horizontal. I guess it could have been worse, but it was quite sad to see the tree down and chopped to pieces with noisy chain saws. I drove the tree trimming crew nuts with my requests to cut up the trunk into stumps, who then had to figure out how to carry those heavy logs back up in the yard as I certainly could not. But in memory of that beautiful tree, we now have a dirt hole surrounded by a random assortment of tree stumps. I'm thinking of lots of stools and planters. Still undecided if we'll be planting a new tree or not in its place, but I am thinking come summer, we'll really be wanting our shady tree back, or at least its replacement.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Skiing Etna


I don't know how many volcanos in the world are ski-able, but I had always wanted to experience that side of snowy Etna and finally did this weekend. We opted for the Linguaglossa side of the volcano (Etna Nord). The snow was piled high along the road and getting there was a bit of an adventure. At about 2 km from the slopes the carabineri blockaded the road to all vehicles without 4 wheel drive or chains, even though the sun was shining bright and the roads seemed merely wet with melting snow, so probably just a precaution. Of course we had neither, so we ended up parking on the side of the road and hitching a ride to the ski lifts. Renting skis was a bargain (50 euros for four people including the use of a sled), but the lift tickets a bit less so (20 euro for everyone older than 4 years old), especially considering that only one chair lift out of three was open for the first half of the day. No matter, after a little pleading we managed to grab one of the ski instructors for the four year old (we had missed our early reservation due to the road block), and enjoyed the beauty of the slope on the clearest of days. It really didn't matter that the snow was a slushy mess. Where else can you ski down a volcano while taking in the beauty of the Ionian sea with the jutting mountains of Calabria on one side and the bumps of the Aeolian islands on the other?  Definitely worth the trip and an experience worth repeating. Oh, and I almost forgot, the sledding area is great fun too.

                                                                                Road block traffic                                                                                       
                                                                 Pretty Linguaglossa

Saturday, February 18, 2012

NYC 2011

How do I love NYC, let me count the ways!
Here are a few things that come to mind remembering our trip this December.

diversity, diversity, diversity
museums of every imaginable sort
public transportation that together with your own two feet will get you everywhere
urban energy, excitement of city living
creative inspiration
neighborhoods with distinct characters
anonymity in numbers
nice people and many good friends
architecture that is fun to look at
open skies and rivers in contrast to skyscrapers and traffic jams
ferry boats and bridges
round the clock hours
international flavors
parks and playgrounds
taxi cab drivers that drive like Sicilians

View of Manhattan and the East River from the Staten Island ferry.

 Plastic ties around sign pole make street art

 American Museum of Natural History, an all time favorite

Thursday, February 16, 2012

LA 2011-2012

The trip to the US we returned from last month was especially special this time around. We were able to spend a week in NYC visiting friends and playing tourist before heading out to LA, where we had an additional 3 weeks of family/friend filled fun. The grand finale was my nephew's bar mitzvah celebration at Universal Studios. We also spent a few days in my other favorite So. Cal city, San Diego.   Here are some California highlights. 

Perfect sunset: Carlsbad, CA
Carlsbad was our home base on this fun work/play trip - family fun was had at Legoland. For lego-loving families, this place is just plain cool. 

Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History celebrating the opening of its new dinosaur exhibit with this stunning dinosaur float. We walked to the parade from my parent's house, which makes for a festive New Year's Day celebration. The float inspired us to visit the museum during our stay, and the new exhibit is very interactive and innovative, fun for all ages.  

California sunshine - 3 weeks of it, meant we were outdoors every day. 
The blossoming trees at the Los Angeles County Arboretum were a nice surprise.  We enjoyed this beautiful open space, the kids bookworm activity for learning about succulents, and the animals - peacocks, ducks and geese. 

Green spaces: community garden
Loved our outing to visit an old friend, newly living in LA. She has a plot at this community garden, in the middle of a suburban LA neighborhood. We picnicked and ate freshly picked oranges and raspberries. Looks more like Sicily than LA if you ask me!

We spent the weekend at Universal Studios celebrating my nephew's bar mitzvah. It felt very glamorous dancing by day at the Studios, and staying out late at night at Universal City Walk. The 4 year old is still talking about the tram ride that he went on with the other kids as part of the bar mitzvah party (i.e., when can we do that again?). A family event to remember.