Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving - bless us one and all

Some of the men carving the turkey as seen from outside -
The fourth Thursday in November is the American holiday of Thanksgiving ....oddly placed on the calendar to serve as a celebration of the harvest and to give thanks for the blessings of the year.  

To me, the Canadian date for Thanksgiving, the second Monday in October, is more aptly placed on the calendar.  Never the mind.

 Today DH and I celebrated Thanksgiving with a feast with our neighbors and other friends.  It was good to share a wonderful meal and remember all we have been blessed with - family, friends, life ...

Wishing you and yours all the best -


Yesterday ...

the colorful leaves are gone ... and ice crystals are the norm.    Have even had a few light snow flurries .. 

One of our neighbors has two puppies, Leo and Lilly, who just don't know what to make of the falling snowflakes.  They dance and bark and chase the flakes .... quite fun to see.

how the road looked at lunchtime .... yup, the weather is changing ....

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Chicken Pitcher

Traditionally, Italian chicken pitchers came about after the Medici family (a very wealthy and powerful family in Renaissance Florence) was saved due to a flock of chickens.

The brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent named Guiliano decided he wanted to hold a large celebration in the village of Gallina (which no longer exists).  The night of the festival (after everyone had drunk their fill of wine, beer and ate all the food they could possibly hold ... and were all soundly asleep) ... assassins hired by the Pazzis - a rival family to the Medici - tried to sneak into Gallina to kill Guiliano.   They might have succeeded except the assassins crossed a yard full of chickens whose cackling and noise awoke both Guiliano and his guards.  

Guiliano was so happy that his life was saved - he threw another party for the village and had artisans create ceramic chicken pitchers to use for wine and gave them as gifts to all the villagers as good luck gifts. 

It is now Italian tradition to give a chicken pitcher to friends and family to protect them from danger or trespassers.  

Found this little guy while up in Naples one weekend ... thought he was so charming I just had to get him.  Not traditional by any stretch of the imagination ... but, I love the tuxedo!


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Finally back .... made a snowman

Bet you all thought I had fallen off the end of the earth .... sometimes, so did I.  Still trying to go through boxes from the move, have gotten most of them dealt with (or tossed ... or given away ...). 

The rooms in our German home mostly flow together ... so I don't want to put a lot of decorations up (plus I REALLY REALLY don't like putting Christmas decorations up before the American holiday of Thanksgiving held on the fourth Thursday of November ... I LIKE being able to enjoy each holiday in its turn).  

For right now ... this is my only decoration ... what do you think?


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sad Kitty

Poor Indy kitty! 
Found a new vet (really nice one) who gave Indy her annual physical -
wanted  complete blood-work done to check kidney functions and overall health due to her age. 
Not a happy kitty after her blood draw ... don't blame her in the slightest ... I don't like needles either.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

I'm Back Again ... in Our New Home

I sure didn't expect to be gone this long!  Moving is such a bear!! 

It is so depressing to leave a place where you have created a life and made friends .. have made memories (lots of memories) and changed a building from just walls, ceiling and floors into a home, welcoming and filled with the treasures that decorate our life.  It was so sad to look at the empty spaces and know that our time there has come to an end ....

DH found a wonderful place in southern Germany ... a bit smaller than our last ... so some things we have acquired over the years are going away to brighten other lives.  Dear Kitty managed to make it up here okay ... though she wasn't too sure about that while we were on the ferry going from Palermo (Sicily) to Genova (northern Italy).  The cat kenneling area was under repair ... and since she was the only cat (and pets are not allowed in the individual cabins ... which I can understand ... fur, "accidents", fleas, other issues) ... she had to spend nearly 24-hours in one of the smaller cages at one end of the dog kennel.  Fortunately there weren't a lot of dogs in the kennel area ... and the staff did put her at one end of the room and the dogs at the other end ... but several of the dogs barked A LOT!!!  Poor kitty.

Since the kennel area was accessible to the passengers the entire trip - I did spend time with her over the trip.  But mostly she just wanted to huddle in her carrier  with her blanket (I left the carrier open and just stuck the whole thing in the kennel cage) and made sure she had water the entire trip ... as well as food once her motion sickness/panic settled down.    I felt bad for her ... I don't even like going into pet stores because I don't like seeing the animals in cages. 

Still have some boxes to go through ... but progress has been made.   Amazing some of the things I am finding packed away .... even though I did quite a bit of purging before we left Sicily (I packed a lot of boxes myself in the weeks before the movers did the final packing and loading) ... there are still things that I have to just shake my head and wonder what on earth I was thinking.

Our new home is brand new ... it was nearly a month and a half after we moved in before the landscapers finished laying the patio and putting in the landscaping.  Lots of dust and dirt during that time period .... ugh!!

Glad to be back ... time to make new memories, create a new home and make new friends. 
The moving van on delivery day, the living room (you can see what will become out patio and the slope that is still raw dirt) before the boxes were unloaded .. and the kitchen part way through the unpacking and putting away process.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Moving is just not much fun ...

It has been an incredibly busy month .... but DH, DKitty and I have managed to get through most of the fuss and flurry.
All our furniture (at least all that we kept) is off and on its way to Germany, the apartment has been cleaned and turned back over to Carmela and Giovanni, DH has reported to his new job (and spent much of his "free time" looking for a new place for us to live) ... DKitty  and I will join him soon ... I have a few more days of work left before the two of us will be on our way.

Amazing how much stuff we packed up and shipped out .... gave away or sold quite a bit ... but there was still a lot.  And I am sure that when we unpack all the boxes ... we will wonder just what prompted us to keep some of the things we did.

Am making the last of the farewells, picking up a few last items to mail/take to Germany ... have shed lots of tears ... I really enjoy living in Sicily and in many ways do not want to leave ...I've made friends here and have created a home here.  Tearing up the roots has been surprisingly painful considering that DH and I both spent time in the military and did multiple moves.

Gave Carmela and Giovanni our keys, gave most of my plants to Carmela ... she loves plants and poking in the dirt ... time to head off for a new adventure.... ... now, if I can only convince the cat ...
I'll miss our kitchen and being able to look out over the plains of Catania to the ocean 
and being able to go out to a wonderful huge terrace.
Yes ... I really did need all of these keys to get into our apartment ...
Off and on our way ....


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lady Etna is at it again!

For the 13th time this year (according to volcanologists), Etna erupted today.

Lots of smoke and ash this morning while we were running errands ...

Then this evening, a friend caught pictures of the actual eruption.

changes ... changes ... changes

DH was notified a few days ago that he has been selected for a job he applied for just after New Year's  ... so we're cleaning, de-cluttering, donating and trying to get ready to leave Italy.  DH has to be at the new job in less than a month!  Yikes!!

Both looking forward to it (a new area to explore and new friends to met) ... and not (leaving our current friends... though can still keep in touch via Email, cards and Skype ... our wonderful apartment, even more wonderful landlords and the charm of life here in Sicily).  We really do love the pace and joys of life here.

Doubtful I will be working any time soon once we get moved .... so I can devote more time to sharing my world.

See you soon!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Christmas letter 2012

This is one of the two versions of the Christmas letter DH and I sent out with our cards this year ... the family one had a few more personal items listed on it and the "Merry Christmas" and "into 2013" block were both smaller so I could add personal notes.

Not quite what I had originally envisioned , but I like how it came out.

Cuban Picadillo - cheater's style

Had this in a restaurant long ago .... had my doubts while reading the menu ... a main dish that combines beef and cinnamon?  But I gave it a try and it was really good.  
Later I found this recipe in a magazine I read occasionally ... must have been fate!

This tends to be our "emergency meal" for the nights we are both tired from work and didn't start anything before heading off to work.  
Both DH and I really like this ... as you can probably tell from the LARGE jar of olives! 

Cheater's Picadillo

1-lb package of lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped -  about 1 cup
1/2-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 jar (16-oz) corn and black bean salsa
1/2-cup golden raisins (brown raisins work, but they can look like bugs)
1/4-cup drained pimento-stuffed Spanish olives, stuffed

In a large, non-stick skillet, cook beef and onions over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until beef is browned and onion is soft.  
Stir in cinnamon so it flavours all the beef.
Add salsa, raisins, olives and 1/2-teaspoon salt.
Cook stirring occasionally until heated through.
Serve over cooked rice or quinoa.
Chopped cilantro can be sprinkled over the top, if you have any. 

I keep mis-placing the recipe ... decided if I saved it here, I could always find it again!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

how does your garden grow?

Part of Giovanni and Carmela's winter gardent for this year....
 it just never stops.
One thing gets finished  ... pull it out and put in the next item.
They can .. and do ... grow just about everything!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

super-easy chicken wings

It's Superbowl Sunday for American football .... time to settle in and watch th 49ers and the Ravens battle for supremacy.  It is a time to gather with friends, cheer on your team and eat!

This is my go-to recipe for wings...

You will need:
bag of chicken wings
bottle of barbeque sauce (I personally prefer one with molasses)
bottle of hot sauce (tabasco, texas pete, buffalo wing -- whatever)

Boil however many of the wings you want in a pan of water until they are cooked (I usually set them cooking and fix other dishes .. so not a clue how long they generally cook).
Drain off the water.
Mix the bottle of barbeque sauce with however much hot sauce until it has the spiciness you prefer (we like it spicy so we generally use a about half of a large bottle of tabasco sauce).
Pour the sauce mixture over the cooked wings.

You either cook the wings now or let them set for a while ... either way works.

Line a shallow pan with foil (believe me, you don't want to try and clean the pan .... been there, done that ... I ended up tossing the pan) and spread out the wings and the sauce in the pan.

Put n the oven at about 350 - 375 degrees F and let cook until the skin is cooked to your liking.
I like my wings crispier than DH does so we pull out his share and then put the rest back in the oven to finish crisping up the skin.


"Cookie Dough" I sent my son for Christmas

A friend of mine sent me a photograph of a variation of this ...
 that one used a deep picture frame to hold the "cookie dough". 

I found this plate (started looking around for one with writing in Italian .. no joy.. oh well, so life goes sometimes) in a euro-store
 and decided I would rather use it to hold the gift.
Modified the wording of the original tag ... not totally satisfied with the wording ... will play with it some more to see what I can come up with.

I think it turned out pretty cute.

Late note:  At some point, it may be a good idea to let the recipant know the money is real ... my son didn't realize that until we talked on the phone some days later.   He thought it was a joke gift until we talked.

a bit out of season ...

Thursday night, DH stopped by our favorite bakery and picked up some bread for dinner...
this was the bag the bread was sent home in ....
a bit out of time ... but I think it's a charming bag.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

gifts for the single mechs

At Christmas DH and I give "care packages" to the single mechanics who work with us ...
some soups or chili to keep in the freezer until a day comes when it's too late or much effort to cook  (at least one eats out just about every meal) that they can just pull out and heat up,
some cookies and sweet bread,
a few pieces of fresh fruit from the market
... and this year, we found chocolate "tools"
the pefect sweet ending for a mechanic.

Forgot to share

Ourlandlord's grandson likes to bake ... here are some of the Christmas cookies he made for us.

more rolls

More rolls she has shaped ... check out the purse on the right side!

Fancy rolls

Fancy rolls being hand shaped by a baker in Monterosso Almo, Ragusa province, here in Sicily.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A wee bit late ... but Happy New Year!

Welcome 2013! 
Some of the fireworks my husband and a friend set off on New Year's Eve from the top of Motta by-pass road. 
 I have a new camera .... think the camera is winning the contest to learn how to use it.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Putting away the holiday ....

Tomorrow is Three Kings Day ... and I started to put away most of Christmas today.   We didn't put a lot up ... mostly on the sideboard n the living room.

Only put one tree up this year ... a small two-foot one DH got for me in a local store.
Since it is small ... I used many of the keychains and other items acquired during our military years that normally go on our travel tree.

Here are the new items we got this year...
-a suede angel and devil keychain was found in Rome when we were up there one weekend
- the bear is from Berlin, Germany
- a doll from St Petersburg, Russia (has a similar doll on the other side in red) and
- a "happy bird" refrigerator magnet also from Russia (each feather is carved separate from the others)

Christmas ornaments can be pricey or hard to find in many places (seasonal at best) and often are of the mass-produced, made in "---" variety, with nothing unique about them to show where they were found ...
keychains on the other hand are just about everywhere and the touristy ones can be reflective of the area.

Bye bye key chains until next year .....

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year 2013!

Welcome to another year!   I had to work yesterday (ugh!) but we spent part of the evening at one friend's home watching movies and having dinner ... then we all went to another friend's home for more food ...a  bonfire and to set off some fireworks.
Left just before midnight to go to the top of a hill near-by to watch the surrounding towns set off their fireworks ... don't know how well my camera picked up the pictures... new camera - still playing with how it works.  A friend got a video ... if I can figure out how to copy his video on Facebook, I'll post it.

Our oven is out... so we are doing a lot of crock-pot and top of the stove meals...

Tried this the other day ... really good and simple to toss together.

Fantastic Pork Tenderloin

2-lb pork tenderloin
1-envelope of dry onion soup mix
1 cup water
3/4-cup red wine
3 TB minced garlic
3 TB soy sauce
fresh grd pepper to taste

Put tenderloin in a slow cooker with the soup mix.  Pour water, wine and soy sauce over the pork and turn the meat so that it is coated on all sides.  Spread garlic over the top of the meat ... you want to have the garlic on top of the meat while it is cooking.  Sprinkle with pepper, cover and cook on low for about 4 hours.  Once done, the cooking liquid can be served as au jus. 

We had baked potatoes topped with au jus. 

Good stuff!!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Slow learner

It took Indy nearly four years to figure out that heat comes out of this "box"
... so laying in front of it is a good thing!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rough day

Indy had a rough day ~a bit stinky and dirty, she had to suffer the indignity of a bath.
She will howl and let everyone know how imposed upon she feels... but she no longer fights the bath (she used to .. but not now ... just be sure the door is shut all the way).  Once she is rinsed off and dried a bit with a towel, I let  her loose in the living room where the heater is so she can finish getting dried and putting her fur in order.

Monterosso Almo

On the 26th, DH and I visited Monterosso Almo (in Ragusa province) to see its Living Navtivity.
Most of the town gets involved, you follow a route that leads you through the lower section of the town, past scenes of life as it was in the 1600-1800's (or so)... cobblers, laundresses, bakers, cantinas, rope-makers and a lot more... it's fun to see and experience. 
Our group was one of the first allowed through .... so we had time after completing the route.  DH and I explored a bit and climbed to the upper church where we were able to look over the Navtitivy areas.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fond memory ....

While attending a volunteer holiday celebration the other evening ... I overheard two volunteers discussing their children and the difficulty both had getting their children to fall asleep.

I was very fortunate in that regard.

During my first tour in the military, I was stationed here in Sicily at the base my husband works at currently (this is where we met, and we both had very positive memories of the country and the people.. so it was an easy decision to come back here when he found out about the job he now has) ... but I digress ...

my son, Chris, was 8 years old when he got here and he was nearly 12 years old when we left.  Sometime during the second year we were here, my boyfriend (now my husband) and I joined an Friday evening bowling league on-base.  We would pick Chris up from the after school program he attended, have dinner (usually on-base at the bowling alley or the galley... Chris considered either a treat) and then bowl.  Chris would read, listen to the TV in the bowling alley, do homework or other stuff (we kept things in the car that were only brought out while at the bowling league) at the little tables there in the bowling alley. 

If we had the early session on Friday, we could be done and get home before Chris' bedtime at 9:00pm.

However, if we had the later session ... it was a bit different.  Things to keep in mind: this happened nearly twenty-five years  ago - we are in a full bowling alley with all the racket of balls being thrown, pins being knocked down, food orders being called by the fry-cook at the grill in the bowling alley ... it's a Friday night and many of the people are relaxing with "adult beverages" and there are lots of loud cheers or moans from the various teams bowling.  Looking back seems like there were about fifteen lanes .... so there were quite a few people in the room and the bowling alley had those hard plastic chairs set in half-circles for the players on each lane. 

By 9:10pm, Don and I could be assured, that almost without exception, Chris would be stretched out on those hard plastic chairs, with all the noise and commotion going on, and be sound asleep.   His body knew it was bedtime and out he would go. 

Whenever we got done on the nights with the later sessions, Don would pick Chris up off those hard chairs and carry him to the car and then up the stairs to my apt. once we got home.  Sometimes we could get Chris awake enough to walk up the stairs ... but he never really woke up all the way.... it was more a form of sleep-walking.

DH and I still think back on that and smile .... fond memories....

Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey

Silly ... but I think it's cute as well.
Brucoli is a small village south of us in the hills on the other side of the Catania plain.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What I made for dinner the other night

Chicken Pot Pie Soup
serves 6, prep 10 minutes, cook 40 minutes adapted from Chicken Pot Pie
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 8 oz mushroom, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups cooked chicken meat (usually leftover rotassire chicken I put in the freezer)
  • 1/2 cup frozen crinkle cut carrots (I just sliced up a few carrots)
  • 1/4 cup frozen green beans
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn kernels (tossed in a whole can that was on the shelf)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Melt butter in a large soup pot.  Add mushrooms a handful at a time, lightly browning each batch then pushing them to the sides and adding the next handful to the center.
  2. With the last batch of mushrooms, add onion and garlic.
  3. Saute mixture until onion and garlic are soft. Sprinkle flour over mushroom mixture.  Stir and cook several minutes until flour is golden.
  4. Add chicken stock and milk and heat to a boil.
  5. Simmer soup, stirring frequently until thickened.
  6. Add chicken and frozen vegetables, heat soup until hot, stirring occasionally.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste, serve over a scoop of mashed potatoes.
Serve with biscuits, pie crust, puff pastry, a bread bowl or over baked potatoes instead of mashed.  If you store or freeze the soup, store separately from the mashed potatoes.  Otherwise, when the soup is reheated,  the potatoes will melt and adversely affect the texture.
I generally have to add extra stock and milk ...otherwise it comes out more like a potpie filling for me.
Not a clue where I got this from ... have had it forever.

What a way to wake up...

I woke up this morning to DH calling me to check out the balcony... it was snowing!!

Monday, December 3, 2012

thinking outside the box

Someone had a good idea to paint a normally bland and boring TV antenna and give it some character.  I would have missed this entirely if I had not climbed a staircase to check out a shop window in Taormina.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Farewell Fall!

It's the beginning of December and time to put away my autumn table linens. 
Now that school is over for this term ... time to catch up on other things ... been way too long.

Close up of the embroidery of the coverpiece ... I found this one at a wonderful little shop in Bertchesgaden, Germany ten or fifteen years ago while on holiday. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Spent part of last weekend at a friend's home ... caught Lola (momma cat) snoozing while her kittens were elsewhere.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

It REALLY does exist!

Homer Simpson's legendary beer really does exist ...
a fine German brew (so I am told).

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Catanian puppet

DH and I saw this last weekend while at a local festival.  The puppet is known as "Il Catanese" and represents a citizen from Catania, Sicily,  The elephant is the symbol of the city and is a reminder of Hannabal crossing the Alps with his elephants.  The puppet is about two and a half feet tall from shoe soles to top of the feathers. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

On the beach near Giardini-Naxos

Went to the beach two weekends ago with some Sicilian friends ... first time either DH or I have been to the beach in nearly four years.   The beach is lot different than the ones in San Diego ... lots of small rocks rather than sand.  Both DH and I are going to get water shoes before we go again.
I'll need to put on sunscreen as well ... ended up with a second-degree burn.... lots of small blisters.  Oh well ... so life goes.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Buying figs in Belpasso

We passed this vendor on the way to work -- haven't seen him before two weeks ago.  Most local vendors set up near the top of town or on the main road coming down from the top.  Others drive through town either in the morning or evening with small (very small) trucks and loud speakers letting people know what is being offered.  This one is closer to the bottom of Belpasso.

The figs were pretty great!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Weeding the roof

Results of birds and prickly pears ....
DH was able to remove most of the cacti from the rain gutters... but not all.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Spaceship over Etna

The winds blowing around Etna cause this cloud formation.
Did anyone else think of the movie "Independence Day" when seeing this?

Easy Peasy Turkey dinner tonight

It's hot here .... too hot to be in the kitchen for long.

Tried out a recipe that a friend shared a couple years ago (yup ... it's been hangin out that long waiting to be tried) ... it's a keeper!

Turkey breast
1 package of onion soup mix
1 can cranberry sauce (I used whole-berry, but you can used jellied too)

Put the thawed turkey breast in a slow cooker.
Mix the sauce and the soup mix together and spread over the  turkey.
Cook on high for an hour or two -- then on low for 4 to 6 hours.
Baste occasionally.

Can thicken the juices with cornstarch ... we just drizzled some over the turkey slices.

Made up some top-of-the-stove stuffing mix to go along with the turkey, and added some fresh nectarines from the market.   Works for there's turkey to make into sandwiches for work tomorrow.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

KFC Russian-style

Hey!  It's KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) ... in Moscow, Russia. 
 "It's chicken tonight!"

DH and I spent most of June visiting Berlin and then taking a river cruise up the Volga from Moscow to St. Petersburg. 
DS even managed to get leave approved to join us for the entire trip.
We had a GREAT time!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My guest book

I found this lined journal in the British Museum shop one trip to London.
The flap is magnetized - so it stays closed.

Not long before DH and I married, we had dinner with
one of my high school teachers and his wife.
They had the tradition of having all their guests sign a guest book ...
including notes who the guests were, the meal, the occasion ... whatever they wanted to remember.

I added this quote after an E-sister mentioned it ...
 though for my next guest book,
I think I will modify it to read "home" rather than "house".

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Espresso makers in cars ??

Fiat plans to add in-car espresso makers to its new 500L cars.... only the European editions though. 

I have to wonder about the logic behind the idea ... haven't driven much in the rest of Europe, but here in Sicily drivers have enough distractions without adding in this.  Granted, the announcement said that the espresso maker would only work when the car was stopped .... that's just a challenge for some one to figure out a way  around it.

Here is the link for more information:

My Scenic is a goner!

The after-math of a rainy night and wash-outs on a narrow road.
Mechanic told my husband it will cost more to fix
than to buy a different car.

Farewell my little Renault Scenic.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Brotwort seller in Berlin

Visited Berlin (Germany) last month with DH, DS and a co-worker (who lived 11 years there .. our own personal tour guide!)  Saw this guy at a couple of the tourist spots we visited.  Carries all that he needs to sell wonderful German sausages to passers-by.