Olive Harvest

October 31, 2009

It's hard not to notice the olive harvesting that has been happening around us. Yards, orchards, and even some roadside ditches are full of activity with families and farmers. Two weeks ago we helped Bina and Antonio pick their olives. And then last Sunday Bina took us to the local press where we watched thousands of olives transform into that liquid gold known as olive oil. It was fascinating to watch families arriving with their olives and their large plastic containers ready to be filled. Very different from the American method of acquiring a small, expensive bottle of olive oil on the supermarket shelf!

Signs of Autumn

October 28, 2009

Lots of seasonal discoveries happening right now. Autumn in Sicily is not about colored leaves, acorns, or big pumpkins. It's chestnuts,apples,pomegranates, grapes, and olives. We have been doing lots of tasting, observing, and gathering. So many new tastes, textures, and interesting finds. Our nature table is getting full again. Want to learn more about nature tables and see some inspiring ones? Check out this recent post on The Magnifying Glass.

Free-Range Kids

October 27, 2009

Last Sunday: kids, hill, and cardboard boxes.Our kids now have the freedom and space to play in a way that seems to be a rare in the States these days. Roaming freely with friends on bikes, creating their own games without an adult giving suggestions or parameters, having to work out conflicts on their own, digging through the recycling bins to find the perfect piece of cardboard for grass sledding or using it to build forts, hours of endless outdoor play, bug collecting, and the novelty of not having to lock our doors.

I had initially planned to post this pic and a few words about how happy it makes me to see our kids living a "free range" life. A few words explaining why we made our decision to live on-base. And then in the last week several things made me think even more carefully about what our children are experiencing right now. The first is this article by Michael Chabon on the Wilderness of Childhood. I had read the article earlier this summer via Heywood's Meadow. At the time it confirmed my long held belief that children need to have time for outdoor adventures and exploration. But reading it a second time last week, I was focused upon the connection between imagination, literature, and true adventures. One of the most exhilerating aspects of our current situation is that Noah has found a friend with similar interests. They not only spend hours together playing and roaming around the neighborhood but while doing this they are engaged in what they call "the game". It is essentially an on-going series of elaborate and complex narratives. Developing characters, acting out scenes, negotiating the plot together. I have never seen or heard anything quite like it before. They are totally immersed in another world. I am sure that part of it is their age, their excitement in their new friendship, but after re-reading Chabon's essay I also think this newly found freedom has ignited in their imaginations in a way I never would have expected.

And then there was this post at Motherlode which left me wondering about cultural perceptions and differences. Ofcourse, the Italian case is a shocking and extreme one, but doesn't seem quite right to generalize it on such a broad level. In our limited time here, I have been impressed by the strong family ties and cohesion rather than alarmed or disturbed by it as the Time Magazine article implies. And then I heard the sad news of this case. Having recently lived in the part of Florida where this tragedy happened, I am of course shocked, sad, and wanting to hold my children even closer and yet these comments on Free Range Kids help to keep things in perspective. So much to juggle and weigh. Feeling very lucky that we are living in this little bubble right now. Free from the tv, free from the scary headlines, free to roam, roll, ride, and wander.

Growing Up

October 22, 2009

While making Halloween decorations a few days ago, Camille decided to add to her accessory collection with a googly eye ring. It was a funny moment of mama pride and sincere surprise. Proud of her creativity and ingenuity. She took a piece of tape, stuck eyes all over it, and turned it into a ring. Simple and yet so clever. And surprise because it was one of those moments when I so struck by how quickly she is growing up. I think it's part of that whole second child thing. I try my hardest to focus on both. To recognize and celebrate the milestones and the changes, and yet I have to admit that I sometimes get off balance. Lately we have been pretty focused on school issues with Noah and in the midst of this Camille has started going through a growth spurt of her own. She is drawing non-stop. She's counting and saying simple phrases in Italian. She's starting to write and sound out letters. And now she's designing her own jewelry. That little eye ring brought it all into clearer focus for me: she is turning four soon. Four is big. Four is that thrilling age that I love. I need to consciously re-focus my attention and recognize what is happening with her.

Sounds easy. Sounds like what every good parent should do, right? And yet, I can't seem to stop thinking about Noah right now. Our inquisitive, creative, energetic monkey boy recently told us he "has turned his brain off". This transition to first grade and to a much bigger school environment has not been as easy or as smooth as we had hoped. He is no longer begging to go to school on the weekends (like he did last year). Instead he is asking us for additional work at home. He is hungry for the challenge and the thrill that comes with true learning. We are meeting with his teacher tomorrow and hoping we can figure out some ways to get that little brain of his fully engaged again, but it hasn't been easy to see what's been happening with him lately.

Makes me wish I had a special eye ring that would allow me to see everything clearly in every direction and with perfect insight. But I don't. Leaves me feeling kind of stretched thin lately in terms of parenting. Wanting to do so much for both of them and yet realizing I can only do so much for each of them. Growing up is hard. Not just for kids, but mamas, too.

Stompin' Around

October 21, 2009

Today was Noah's first school field trip: grape stomping at a local vineyard. Remember that I Love Lucy episode? ...visualize 40 kids doing the same thing but with plastic bags over their shoes. The tour included a walk through the vineyard, visiting the farm animals, the stomping, and the sampling (freshly squeezed grape juice for kids and wine for adults!).

Everything was perfect until the drive home when I kept getting phone calls from the Carabinieri speaking in rapid Italian. Heart racing and thinking of all of the terrible things they might be trying to tell me; trying to stay focused on the school bus I was following back to school, and cursing myself for not studying Italian more diligently! I eventually figured out that they had my wallet which must have fallen out during our lunch break at a local park. I turned around and headed back to the small town to retrieve my wallet which resulted in another series of comical exchanges. The police officer didn't know any English and he quickly realized my pitiful Italian was not going to work. Turns out his wife knows English so he kept calling her on his cell phone to translate. I was very lucky. A kind Sicilian soul returned it without taking a dime or a Euro.

Spider Invasion

October 20, 2009

Big spiders crawling up our walls...luckily they aren't nearly as annoying as the flies. Spider construction: 1 small paper bag per spider, plastic bags for stuffing, rubber band for seperating the body from the head, paint, glitter glue, glue gun, and twigs for legs. Optional yarn for creating webs on the wall. Perfect creepy, crawly, creative fun for Halloween.Good spider reads: Spiders: The Ultimate Predators, Sophie's Masterpiece, Spiders and Their Kin, and The Spider and the Fly.

Travel Photo Friday: The Valley of the Temples

October 16, 2009

We now know why The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento is one of those "must see" sites on Sicily. It is magnificent. It was worth every minute of the crazy drive(a little detour to find the agriturissimo where we were spending the night), to look up and see these dramatic Greek ruins emerging on the horizon. And it got even better as we got closer.

A few tips to share from our experience:

-Buy your entrance ticket in the parking lot across the street.

-If traveling with young kids, be sure to pack a carrier or consider bringing a jogging stroller (something beyond just the basic umbrella). There are paths but they aren't smooth and it is much easier to explore with the flexibility of a better stroller or carrier. This is not a small site and kids will get tired.

-Light sabers are optional, but they did enhance the experience for a certain six year old boy. Not to mention the funny family pics! This is a wonderful place for kids to run, jump, and explore but keep a close eye on little ones. There are some sheer drop offs and the potential for some serious injuries, not to mention some heart stopping moments for mamas of little dare devils.

-Try to plan your visit late in the afternoon. We arrived as most of the large tour groups were leaving. The late afternoon light was that gorgeous, golden hue and as we rambled around we were treated to a beautiful sunset followed by watching the ruins being lit up for the night. A very dramatic time to be in the Valley of the Temples, cooler temperatures, and it felt as if we had the place to ourselves.

-If you forget to pack water or snacks, there is a nice little cafe within the park and there is also one in the parking area.

Overall,we were very impressed with this site. It was well maintained, easy to navigate, and quite an awe-inspiring glimpse back in time. We can't wait to return.

To read more about some of the ancient spots around Sicily, go here. To see more Friday Travel pics go here.

October List

October 15, 2009

BeauSoleil House: If you live in the DC area, perhaps you have noticed the Solar Decathlon taking place on the Mall. Wish we could be there right now. My mom is there along with other friends and family. It's a very cool project and I can only imagine all of the energy and enthusiasm that must be flowing around there this week. And to add to the celebration Michael Doucet and Beausoleil will be playing tomorrow (Friday, 16th 5-7pm on the front porch). Makes me proud to think about all of those Cajuns designing, dancing, and trying to make our world a better place.

The Moth: A friend shared The Moth podcast with me this week and I am already hooked. Stories galore. I love it and I can already tell it is going to help me weather the Sicilian rainy season.

StoryNory: Here's another fabulous source for stories for younger listeners. As you already know audiobooks are a big hit around here. Our new library doesn't have any audiobooks for kids so we have started to explore on-line options. And this is a good one.

Italy Tutto: A big thank you to Italy Tutto for the warm welcome and nice introduction. Feels a little strange to read about ourselves, but so happy to have discovered such a great resource and to be a part of it.

: The amazing final product and the making of it.

Turkey: Last year we started adding coins to our Turkey Jar in hopes of making our dream of visiting friends in Ankara come true. Very excited to report we just bought our tickets and we'll be heading there in a few weeks. I had a great time in Istanbul as a college student but haven't been able to find a ton of info about family travel in Turkey. If you have any recommendations, please share them.

Geninne's Art Blog: I always love visiting this blog. So colorful, creative, and inspiring. I can't remember if I have shared it here before. But it can't hurt to share it again, right?

A Good Visit

October 14, 2009

It was a good visit with just the right amount of site-seeing mixed in with game playing, kite flying, and book reading (is there anything better than having Nana read book after book? perhaps Poobah's jokes?). Already looking forward to the next time we are all together.

Travel Photo Friday: On The Go

October 9, 2009

This was the souvenir Noah brought back from Rome. He tried to convince us that an outrageously, overpriced Transformer would be a good souvenir. Luckily, he and Adam found this cool little car. Before having kids, I never fully appreciated the many attributes of matchbox cars. Now I do. They are perfect travel toys. Small, portable, and good for all ages and genders. And they make good souvenirs, too. We have a nice little collection of Asian vehicles and now we have started our European collection.

We are in the midst of doing some major Sicilian site-seeing. We have our first visitors from the States (Nana and Poobah). Having visitors is always good motivation to get out and explore. I will return to posting on the blog next week. I am sure there will be lots to report. On the current itinerary: a castle tour, ricotta cheese making, The Valley of the Temples, Taormina, soccer games, an agriturisimo, Caltagirone, cupcake making, and lots of other good stuff.

Hope your weekend is filled with good stuff, too.

The Joy of Reading

October 2, 2009

Just heard this on NPR and had to share it. A great story to start the morning: how a reader got his start and what some special librarians did to foster his newly discovered love of reading. I can't imagine life without reading. It's like breathing to me. Inhaling and exhaling words and worlds. A daily necessity. I feel so lucky to have been surrounded by readers, librarians, and books from a very early age. I think that's why this story struck a chord with me.

Speaking of books and reading: what's on your list for this Fall?

I am looking forward to Neither Here nor There, Handmade Home, Catching Fire, Trail of Crumbs, The Leopard, and as always I am eager to hear your suggestions.

Travel Photo Friday: Catania Fish Market

A very lively spot in the heart of Catania, Sicily. Although not nearly as large as the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, the Catania fish market is a full sensory experience...the tell-tale smells hit you before turning the corner, the lively banter between fishermen and shoppers, the colorful assortment, and even the mucky reminder not to wear open toed sandals. I recently read that some changes (related to licensing and health codes) were happening at the market and was curious to see the impact of those changes. There was one area that seemed a little more empty than before, but I was very relieved to see that overall it is still full of life and character. While wandering through the market yesterday, I was reminded of a great podcast on Amateur Travel (thanks, Emily). Madeline's description of Sicily as a place of raw intensity and authenticty seemed very fitting for the fish market. Have I mentioned yet that Sicily has some of the most amazing seafood we have ever eaten?

More Travel Pics here.

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