Coming and Going

September 29, 2010

Doors are slamming. Clocks are ticking. Headaches are happening. Schedules are filling up and I am desperately seeking a daily rhythme that doesn't leave me feeling so scattered and stretched in opposing directions.

This sign was posted on a side entrance to Blenheim Palace (it's one of the places we visited in England this summer. I keep meaning to post more details about that trip...just one of many things on my very long to-do list. ) 

Is anyone else adjusting to the start of school, soccer, ballet, PTO, Italian classes, and less hours of daylight?

When You Were Little

September 26, 2010

In the past year, Noah and Camille have suddenly become very hungry for stories about our childhoods. Begging to hear the same stories over and over: the one about when I hid on the refrigerator...naked and eating cookies, the time Adam's underwear got caught in a mousetrap, any and all Uncle Charlie stories (those are family stories that were told to me as a child), etc. Begging us to share new stories. Trying to tease out more details. I have to admit that in a strange way my memories were pretty rusty but as I started telling more, I started remembering more in odd chunks and fragments. It's been fun to have these storytelling sessions that frequently get started in the car or in a tent with "Tell us about when you were little...."

In addition to listening to family stories, the kids have also been gobbling up autobiographies of some of their favorite writers. It started with Roald Dahl's Boy which we read in anticipation of our trip to his village and delightful museum. And then my sister recommended Soup as an audio book. She remembered how much she enjoyed listening to this book on tape as a kid and thought Noah would like it, too. It wasn't until I downloaded it from the library (can I just say again how much  I love being able to do that!!!) that I realized it was Robert Newton Peck's tales of his boyhood. And then for our recent Venice trip I just happened to stumble upon Tomie De Paola reading his stories from his childhood in 26 Fairmont Avenue. There is something so enchanting and entertaining about hearing these stories of childhood, especially when told by gifted writers. I don't blame the kids for wanting to hear them over and over again. I do,too. 

Have any good autobiographies or childhood tales to share? 

Mammoth Seed Love

September 21, 2010

We planted mammoth sunflowers in our back yard this summer and they were stunning. Bright, yellow, and towering over our fence like sunny beacons. Their petals fell off over several weeks ago but I couldn't bring myself to cut them down because the birds and the bees were so happy with them. This morning I finally cut them down and as much as I love their yellow beauty, I actually kind of think all of the seeds in center of the heads are pretty darn cool (and heavy, too). It's amazing to realize what can grow from just one tiny seed. Want to read even more cool stuff about seeds? Skip over to The Magnifying Glass and see what Dawn just posted.

Venetian Books

September 17, 2010

One of the most surprising and enjoyable aspects of wandering the streets of Venice, was the discovery of not just one, but several delightful bookstores. Here are two of our favorites:

Aqua Alta Bookshop
The sign out front proclaimed it to be the most beautiful bookstore in the world. I am not sure I'd agree with that, but I would say it is one of the most unique. The space is crammed to the gills with books, boats, and bathtubs. Yes, boats and bathtubs. They aren't just decorative, they are also functional. With it's close proximity to a canal (see above pic), the shop lives up to its name of Aqua Alta (high water) and gets flooded several times a year. The friendly and flirtatious owner who speaks an impressive array of languages showed us a couple of pictures from previous floods. His creative solution: raise all of the shelving units off the floor and bring in boats and tubs where he stacks a very diverse range of books. It's a great spot for finding English books about Venice. In addition to feeding the fish from the back door of the shop, the kids' favorite discovery was the big black and white bookshop cat who was curled up in a large gondola surrounded by books and waiting to be petted. If you are a book nut and you make it to Venice, add this to your list of places to visit.

Acqua Alta bookshop
Opened every day of 9:30 AM – 7:30 PM
Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa (Corte Senza Nome), 5176 - Castello
30122 Venezia
Phone: +39 041 296 08 41

Laboratorio Blu
We stumbled upon this charming children's bookstore while exploring the Jewish district of Venice (which by the way is a great place to take kids...the main square was full of families playing soccer, riding scooters, etc). It is a cozy and inviting space filled with an interesting assortment of children's books (in England and Italian). They also have a nice selection of games and wooden toys/puppets. We ended up spending quite a bit of time here as the kids were happy to take a break from walking (we were, too!). We ended up purchasing a great family guide to Venice, Viva Venice. Highly recommend it as a guide for the city but also as a nice souvenir.

Laboratorio Blu
Cannaregio 1224, Ghetto Vecchio
30121 Venezia
Phone: 041-71-5819

If you want to really turn your trip to Venice into a bibliophile's dream, here is a more complete list of Venetian bookstores. I am tucking it away for future trips to Venice. Whenever we travel, I always try to get my hands on books related to our destination. Here is a list of books that we read before and during our time in Venice. This is mainly a kids' lit list, so I would welcome adult reading suggestions related to Venice. I can now see why so many well known authors have visited and written about this intriguing and watery city.

This is Venice
Gabriella's Song
Gaspard on Vacation
Viva Venice
The Thief Lord
Carnival at Candlelight

Daughter of Venice
Zoe Sophia's Scrapbook
Bravo! Zan Angelo!

Venetian Treats

September 16, 2010

On our first night in Venice we were given a small piece of paper with the name of a gelato shop, the name of the street and the name of the dessert we must try before leaving the city. We spent our last day in Venice on a quest to find it. We walked, we hopped on a vaporetto, and we walked some more. And when we started to see people promenading along the water with gelatos in hand, we knew we were finally headed in the right direction towards Gelati Nico. We were not disappointed.

They have a nice assortment of flavorful and fresh gelato, but if you want something really tasty follow the locals past the line of tourists and head inside to order their specialty. Giandiuotto da passeggio
is an amazing chocolate, hazlenut concoction topped with gobs of fresh cream. If you want the full experience, pay a little extra to be seated outside by the water and have your gianduotto served to you while you enjoy the view. The whole experience is a true Venetian treat. And if you want to add a bit of art to your outing, you are within very easy walking distance of the Peggy Guggenheim (nice sculpture garden and small/easy museum for kids), the Gallerie dell' Accademia and the Punta Della Dogana (contemporary art).

One more dining tip for Venice, make reservations for dinner at La Zucca. It's a great little restaurant at the foot of a very quaint bridge serving a wonderful mix of seasonal dishes, including some great vegetarian options. Our table was outside along the canal...gondolas within our reach, good food, an evening breeze: it was our favorite meal in Venice.


September 14, 2010

Venice! Gondolas, masks, winding alleys, beautiful bridges, and pigeons...we loved all of it and more. I have to admit that I went to Venice with low expectations. I had heard complaints about how it is over-run with tourists, it's dirty, it's sinking, it's expensive, etc. And with those criticisms echoing in my head, I was caught off guard when the city began to work it's magic on me. I think it started with our first night when we attended services at the beautiful Spanish Synagogue. Just as with the city, I was caught off guard by how much I enjoyed the service which was Sephardic Orthodox...entirely in Hebrew, separate seating areas for men and women...something I had never experienced before. Following the service we attended a lively dinner at Gam Gam, a local Kosher restaurant. We ate family style with Jewish ex-pats and travelers (from Australia, London, the States, France, Israel) and locals. We sang, swapped travel tales, and exchanged e-mails. As the evening came to an end, we wound our way through the Jewish ghetto back to our apartment, the streets were surprisingly empty and it felt as if we had the city to ourselves.

My favorite moments were echoes of that first evening. Wandering the quiet streets early in the morning or late at night. Venturing into little nooks and crannies which held surprises. Meeting new people in unexpected spots. Avoiding the tourist masses as much as possible. Watching the kids chase pigeons. Being surrounded by water. Reminding me of New Orleans with an alluring mix of decay and decadence; fantasy and gritty reality....all seen from the canal view in our apartment....gondoliers singing to tourists, men unloading plumbing supplies, a boat full of soda and wine, a couple kissing in the alley across the canal, laundry drying. Venice was the perfect place to celebrate the start of a new year.

Glittery Wishes

September 7, 2010

We are preparing to depart for Venice where we will be celebrating Rosh Hashanah. Instead of packing, Camille and I decided to pull out the glitter and make a few apple decorations. Although Rosh Hashanah marks the start of the High Holidays, it is not a commercialized holiday. I like that. I like the time to truly reflect, make amends, and look ahead. There aren't the same distractions that happen for me with other holidays. I don't fret over buying gifts or feel weighed down by expectations or obligations. I like that it means we make our own simple decorations. And when it comes to celebrating the New Year, can you really ever have too much glitter or puffy balls? In addition to sharing our wishes for a sweet and glittery new year, we are also sharing with you some of our favorite Rosh Hashanah books and fun Jewish kid cds:

Celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
Sammy Spider's First Rosh Hashanah
It's Shofar Time
Today is the Birthday of the World
The World's Birthday
New Year at the Pier

Zum Gali Gali
Free To Be The Jew In Me
It's All Challah To Me
My Very First Jewish Celebrate

A Celebration of Life and Art

This Saturday, September 11th, there will be a special art walk in Lafayette, Louisiana to honor my dad. Really, really, really wishing I could be there. If you are in the area, please go. You can read more about it here and here. I am proud of my mom and all those who have worked so hard to make the Elemore Morgan, Jr. Visual Arts Endowment such a success. I know my dad would be very proud, too and he would do a lot of dancing and talking if he were there on Saturday night. Actually, let me revise that. I know he will be there.

Arched Views

September 6, 2010

Found while wandering in Caltagirone a few weeks ago. My voyeuristic tendencies have gone a bit wild since moving to Sicily. There are just way too many enticing views behind partially opened doors and tempting arches.

Catching Up

September 5, 2010

Wow! Finally taking a moment to catch my breath from the past two weeks which were overflowing with adventures, errands, new friends, risks, transitions, triumphs and one burnt chocolate cake. Our lazy summer days came to a screeching halt with the introduction of theatre rehearsals (Noah), soccer (Noah and Camille), and the start of school (Noah). Noah took a big risk and decided to audition for the Missoula Children's Theatre production of Pinocchio. In typical Noah fashion, he grumbled and worried about even trying out for a part. When he got a part as a toy soldier, he smiled momentarily and then informed me that he only intended to do the rehearsals and not actually get up on stage. On the morning of the first rehearsal day, he woke me up at 6 am. He had made himself breakfast, gotten dressed and was ready for me to drive him to rehearsal...which wasn't for another 4 hours! At the end of the first day of rehearsal, he announced at dinner that he had a surprise for us and we would have to wait until Friday night to see what it was. Turns out he had been given a special toy soldier role in the play. We were proud of how he did, but in many ways I was even prouder of him for taking that initial risk to try out for something that he had never done before. Have you ever attended a Missoula Children's Theatre production? It's a pretty amazing thing. Two actors arrive on Monday with bags full of costumes, props, scripts, and the scenery. On that first day they hold auditions for school-age kids followed by several days of intense rehearsals. At the end of the week they have a public performance. If you get a chance to see one of their productions, do it. In addition to enjoying the show, we also had the pleasure of hosting one of the actors. She was a fabulous house guest and it was fun to show her a bit of Sicily. And Camille, who wouldn't get in the water at the start of the summer, is now an amazing little swimmer. I am so impressed by how hard she has worked this summer during her swim lessons and during the times we have just been hanging out by the pool. She also started soccer this week and loves it. In the midst of four year old soccer chaos, she was laughing, running, and kicking with the best of them. Our kids have accomplished some pretty amazing things this summer. As adults, taking risks usually means starting a new career or trying a new recipes. When I stop and really think about the milestones that kids tackle, they are pretty monumental risks...from crawling to walking to eventually swimming and horseback riding; entering a new school full of strange faces; auditioning and getting on stage for the first time. Those are big things. So please forgive the lack of blogging. We are alive and well and just caught up in the momentary frenzy of finishing up summer,sponsoring a family new to Sicily, starting the school year, and watching big things happen.

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