Trunk Produce

August 25, 2010

One of the things I love best about Sicily is buying fresh fruit and vegetables from the trunks of cars parked haphazardly on the side of the road or dusty little trucks which seem to suddenly appear over night filled with peaches, melons, onions, and whatever else might be in season. I'll happily choose fruit from a trunk over the fancy, waxy stuff that gets showered by fake rainstorms and glows under florescent lights in big American superstores.

Girls and Boys

August 23, 2010

I listened to this conversation in the car last week:

Noah: Camille, do you know what a girly-girl is?
Camille: No, what's that?
Noah: A girl who likes Barbies.
Camille: I don't like Barbies. I only like mermaids.
Noah: And it's a girl that doesn't like to get dirty. I only know one girly-girl and she drives me crazy. ( He names a girl from last year's class)
Camille: I am not a girly-girl. (long pause) But are you a boyly-boy, Noah?

Noah groaned. I laughed. And Camille continued to sincerely ask about "boyly-boys". And I have to admit it is a good question. Why do we have the phrase girly-girl and not boyly-boy?

Modern Shadows

August 20, 2010

Camille dancing in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern: one of my favorite moments in London.

The Benefits of Boredom

August 19, 2010

This was the scene in our driveway last night: kids, chalk, a hose, and a bottle of dish detergent. It wasn't planned. It wasn't an activity I had read about. It wasn't one they had seen on-line and wanted to try. It was good old messy, concocting, creating fun. The kind of thing that is often sparked by boredom and ends up evolving into something pretty cool. It started with a hose fight and turned into a colorful scene on our driveway which is still there today (it turns out chalk mixed with water and dab of liquid soap turns into paint). There wasn't any bickering or teasing. And I didn't do a darn thing except sit back in the lawn chair and read my book. Like the garden, I had big plans for our summer. I envisioned daily art and science projects and perhaps even an art group for older kids in the neighborhood. But none of that really happened. In fact, we haven't done any "projects" all summer. And I actually think that's been a good thing. There is a lot to be said for boredom induced creativity and taking a break from structure. We only have about a week and half until school starts and I can honestly say that I am sad to see summer coming to an end.

August List

August 18, 2010

A very random list of things that have been making me happy this summer. It also happens to be a list of things that friends have recommended, but for some silly reason it took me awhile to try them. So here is my August list:

Roasted Shrimp and Orzo Salad: This is the perfect summer meal! The only thing I do differently is toss in some fresh tomatoes from our garden and sometimes I leave out the shrimp. It's always very tasty. Thanks to Leslie for the suggestion and thanks to Ina for yet another favorite recipe.

Sufijan Stevens
: Discovered via Pandora and a friend who happens to be his friend (thanks Aja). Love his stuff, especially the fifty states project. If you are in the States, check out his fall tour schedule. Here's a sample.

The Shark Steam Mop: With the fun of summer comes muddy feet, watermelon juice, and lots of sticky, dirty tile floors. I actually bought this steamer before we moved to Sicily based upon suggestions I got here, but for some reason I never pulled it out of the box until this summer when I started needing to clean the floors on a near daily basis. I love it, love it, love it. Never thought I'd be singing the praises of a mop, but I am. No chemicals, easy, quick, and works like a charm.

Free Audio Books
: Why did it take me a year to figure this out?!!!! Attention all ex-pats or those preparing to move overseas: keep your library status in the States active! Thanks to my friend/favorite school librarian's suggestion (thank you, Margaret), I learned that we were able to check out audio books from our library back in Florida. I can't tell you how excited we have all been about this. With a few easy clicks, we are able to select audio books from the on-line catalogue, check them out, and load them on to our i-pod. Favorite free listens this summer include Roald Dahl reading his work, The Ramona series, Paddington Bear, and The Fudge Series.

Diva Cup
: Ok, if you are squeamish or if you are one of my uncles, skip this entry on the list. My friend, Angi, has been trying to get me to use one of these for years. To be honest, it just sounded too gross and messy. Well, I finally made the leap and I wish I had done it sooner. I am now an official convert. I won't go into any more details here, but if you are interested, e-mail me and I'll tell you more.

Succulent Wall
: My love of succulents continues to grow. While searching for some info on a new plant addition to the my garden, I stumbled upon Flora Grubb's lovely site (isn't that a great name....she was destined to be a gardener!) and her stunning wall planter. Now I am dreaming about how to build my own Sicilian version.

The Godfather
: Can you believe we moved to Sicily without ever having watched The Godfather series? Well, it's true. And now that we are finally watching it, I can't stop commenting on how it really does look like Sicily.

Bagala Beads: I love these beads. I bought a necklace and a bracelet at two different museum shops when we were in London. I love the bright colors, the re-use of magazines, and the idea of supporting women. I am also tempted to try making some myself. Seems like the kind of project you could easily do while watching a movie.

Swagger Wagon: A friend (thanks, Megan) just e-mailed this to me and I had to add it to the list. Who says mini-vans aren't hip? Enjoy!

Summer Garden Update

August 15, 2010

I had such high hopes for our summer garden. We started out with zucchini, tomatoes, yellow watermelons, cucumbers, beans, green beans, parsley, basil, grapes, sunflowers, and zinnias. All was going along well. We started harvesting cukes and tomatoes. We had baby watermelons growing and tons of zuchinni blooms. And then we took our trip to England in what turned out to be a time of record setting temperatures. Thank goodness I hired one of our babysitters to water while we were gone, but sadly it still wasn't quite enough. Things were pretty fried when we got back. And then things continued to go wrong. Adam accidentally cut down the watermelon vines and the cukes while weed whacking and in a cruel development the access to our back yard was cut off last week due some exterior painting. And so our summer garden has taken a serious beating. Happily we still have tomatoes. Lots of red, juicy jewels which seem to keep going despite all of the set-backs. Thank goodness for tomatoes. Perhaps that's all we'll plant next summer. Headed out the door to water, prune, and try to coax some our other plants back to life. What's growing in your garden this summer?

Letterboxing in Dartmoor with Kids

August 14, 2010

Dartmoor National Park came to my attention several years ago with this article.At the time, I remember thinking it would be so cool to do some letterboxing in the area where it originated, but I didn't really think it would happen. And then when we started planning our trip to England, I dug out the article and started trying to figure out if it was possible. Turns out it is a little more challenging to get on-line information about letterboxes at Dartmoor than I had anticipated. Actually, searching for letterboxes in the rest of England was also challenging. I just assumed that the birth country of letterboxing would be easy and similar to the on-line searching that we do when we are in the States. I eventually became so frustrated that I returned to that original article and decided to contact the author, Carol Rifka, directly. Thanks to the power of google searching I was able to track her down and here's the advice she gave me. Since it was so helpful, I thought I would just go ahead and share it word for word:
Hi Lucia,
Nice to hear from you and glad you found the article a good reference! Yes,
Dartmoor letterboxing is quite different than American letterboxing. Both easier and more difficult and, well, kind of strange. There are a lot of unofficial letterboxes on Dartmoor. Usually these are placed by kids or families. You can basically just let your kids look for these at the more popular places on Dartmoor--Hound Tor (highly recommended for kids, rock scrambling etc.), Haytor, Bonehill Rocks etc. These are all on the east side of the moor. There are lots of boulders and big rock piles with nooks and crannies where people hide boxes. You'll see what I mean when you get there. You don't need clues and it's ideal for younger kids because in the course of normal exploring and peeking around they're bound to find a box or two or more. The downside is that as those boxes are unofficial and not particularly well hidden they can often be wet or missing the stamp. It's luck of the draw, but ideal for younger kids.

If you want to get more serious and get out the compass and maps (you'll want/need the Ordnance Survey map OL 28) you'll have to contact the Letterboxing 100 club in writing and buy a copy of their Catalogue of Dartmoor Letterboxes. It's all a bit weird and very "secret society", and I have to say, we've only really done a few of those official boxes. They're nicer boxes than the ones you just stumble across and there is an actual feeling of accomplishment when you find them, so worth doing I'd say. The clues aren't as "fun" as I think the American clues are. They're just compass and map directions with maybe reference to a land feature. The Ordnance Survey maps are very very detailed, so you can find even the smallest landmark on there.

Here's a couple links that you mind find useful...

***Dartmoor National Park letterboxing info:
***Letterbox 100 club:

Keep your fingers crossed for good weather. The last co
uple summers here have been abysmal. Oddly enough we're going to be in Italy for most of August. Tuscany, just outside Florence. I know Sicily is quite a ways from Tuscany, but any general Italy tips would be much appreciated!
All the best,

And Carol's advice was "spot-on" (Thank you, Carol and hope you are having fun in Tuscany!). We went the kid friendly route of just showing up and searching. Our first stop was the Haytor visitor center where the park ranger recommended some hiking areas surrounding Haytor and Bonehill Rocks. We didn't find any boxes on Haytor, but our first letterbox was actually at the ice cream truck at the base of Haytor Rock. While waiting for our Devon cream cones, we just happened to mention to the driver that we were hoping to find some letterboxes. He got a big grin on his face and pulled out a box from under the counter. After that fun and suprising discovery, we headed to Bonehill Rocks where we hit the jackpot. Box after box crammed into nooks and crannies. We were giddy with excitement. As Carol mentioned some were in better shape than others and sadly most of them were store bought and not hand carved, but we have never experienced anything quite like this. We found over twenty boxes in less than half an hour!
It would be fun to return in the future when the kids are a bit older to try searching for the boxes via the more official clues (it sounds like you have to write ahead for coordinates). Very glad we made the effort to experience letterboxing in Dartmoor. It was a fun afternoon for all of us.


August 9, 2010

Sorry for the lack of posts. I have so many posts in mind related to our trip to England but I just haven't been able to get around to them. I am on day four of dealing with a nasty yellow jacket sting. I accidently sat on one while at the pool and had an extreme reaction. I have made two trips to ER in the past two days and I am continuing to deal with the reaction and all of the related medications which produce their own "fun" side effects. Note to self: look before sitting down because it can become a real pain in the butt (or in my case the upper thigh).

Summer Pursuits

August 4, 2010

Snap Circuits and Flower Soup are daily activities around our house this summer. What's keeping the hands around your house busy?

A Year

August 2, 2010

This week we will have been in Sicily for exactly one year. It's been a good year. It's been a year full of interesting cultural experiences and wonderful travel. It's been a year full of good food, good wine, and very good olive oil. During our first couple of weeks in Sicily, we took part in a cultural orientation program. At one point the leader of the orientation program, a lively Sicilian guy who has since become one of our friends here, was talking about the production of olive oil in Sicily and encouraging us to see the process first hand in November when families pick and process their olives. And then he said something that was shocking to us. He informed us that his family uses at least 10 liters of olive oil a year. 10 liters! How could that be possible? We liked olive oil and we bought it when we lived in the States. But that meant one bottle that usually lasted us an entire year. Was the guy bathing in his olive oil? 10 liters?!

That was a year ago. Last week for Adam's birthday, one of his gifts was a 5 liter container of our favorite olive oil. We now understand what it means to live in a place where the fresh, local olive oil is so good that you need to have at least 5 liters. Obviously we aren't quite up to the 10 liter standard, but maybe next year?

So here's a visual glimpse of us via our front door: 5 liters of olive oil, the plant stand my Uncle Ron made for us when we were married, the demi-john dumpster treasure,the pots of Sicilian succulents I love (what's not to love about plants that don't need much water and produce lots of babies all on their own?), and the remnants of kids' chalk drawings on our wall. Like I said it has been a good year. A very good first year.

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