Exploring: The Nebrodi Mountains

November 29, 2011

Daily hikes past cows, up and over rocky paths, following the Troina River, stopping to pick flowers, throw rocks into the water, and admire the striking vistas. Big, green, rocky hills covered with wild teasel, ferula, and trees with yellow leaves. The rainy season has started in Sicily which means everything is finally greening up. Sudden rains rinsing away the dusty, browns of summer.  Even after two years of living in the Mediterranean climate, this abrupt appearance of vibrant greens never ceases to amaze and thrill me. Autumn in the Nebrodi Mountains is invigorating and muddy.


November 28, 2011

Palazzo Biscari, Catania, Sicily
Tonight we will light a candle for Adam's grandmother who passed away this weekend. Ann was truly a beautiful woman who lived a long and vigorous life. She was one of the most candid women I have ever met. She was generous, kind, and driven. She loved dirty jokes, she was practical, and she turned organizing and cleaning into an extreme sport (I always heard stories from Adam and his mom, but when Ann kindly gave me her sewing machine and sewing supplies I was blown away by how neatly everything was labeled and organized). She was a devoted wife,mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother who lived each day with grace and wit. 

We will miss her very much.

Thanksgiving 2011

November 24, 2011

Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, 2011

Sending you and your families warm wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving! We are headed off to explore Sicily's Nebrodi Mountains for a few days with friends. We have so much to be thankful for and while savoring our final year in Sicily, we are also starting to get excited about our next destination. We recently found out we will be moving to the Washington, DC area...history, culture, friends, family, and all sorts of other good things waiting to be discovered. We are thrilled.

I like Maya Angelou's advice about eating (step away from the counter and join the table) and yellow legal pads (write down every little thing). In between eating and hiking, I am planning to do some writing. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we all took just a few minutes to sit down with a yellow legal pad and make a gratitude list? I admit that sounds kind of cheesy, but I do believe it's true. Stopping to acknowledge and appreciate what we have is a very good and necessary thing. Hope your table is graced with good food, hope you are surrounded by love and good memories, and hope your list is very long and full. Happy Thanksgiving!

Parisian Gluttony: Savory

November 23, 2011

As much as we loved all of the Paris sweets, we also loved the savory side of Paris, too. All of those chalkboards beckoning us, tempting us, wooing us to stop,taste,and savor. I didn't realize how much I loved those enticing black and white signs until I got home and saw just how many photos I had taken of menu boards!

A few of our favorite Parisian savory spots:

Chez La Vieille "Adrienne" for a memorable French meal
Little Breizh for savory crepes, sweet crepes and yummy apple cider
L'as du fallafel for fallafel, schwarma, hummus, and good lentil soup
La Grande Epicerie  for fulfilling a foodie's dream...amazing market where we stocked up on Bordier butter.

Camille and General Washington in front of Chez la Vielle "Adrienne"

Parisian Gluttony: Sweet

November 22, 2011

Here's my advice for anyone planning a trip to Paris: Paris Pastry. Seriously, forget the guidebooks, the bulky maps, the fanny pack, and any other cumbersome piece of tourist gear you might be considering for a trip to Paris. Pack pants with stretchy waistbands, leave all of your caloric guilt at home, and follow David Lebovitz's advice.His brand new app, Paris Pastry, was one of the reasons we enjoyed Paris so much.

Here's a glimpse at our daily Parisian schedule:  wake up, cross the street for fresh croissants from Gosselin, play in the park around the corner from our apartment, hop on the metro and head to a museum, lunch, followed by consultation with Paris Pastry to find dessert, visit another park, snack time again courtesy of Paris Pastry, dinner, bed, and do it all again the next day. I am not kidding you. That's what our days were like and we loved every decadent moment of it. Pure sugary, buttery, chocolately, bliss with just a few taps on the i-Touch. Paris is a very dangerous place. Camille kept begging us to move to Paris, but I don't think that would be a very healthy decision (stay tuned to find out where we will actually be moving next).

A few of our favorite Parisian sweet spots:

Gosselin for baguettes and croissants
Dalloyau for macaroons
Laduree for macaroons 
Angelina for the most divine hot chocolate and a pretty spot for lunch (see above pics)

And one more sweet tip:  go to a grocery store and head straight for the yogurt aisle. Pear yogurt was my favorite, but there are so many choices you are sure to find something to please everyone's palate.

Bubbly Bliss

November 17, 2011

My last trip to Paris was over fifteen years ago. It was part of a quick backpacking trip through France, Belgium,and the Netherlands before starting summer session in Oxford. I was traveling with my college roommate. We both had small backpacks, a copy of Lets Go Europe, and very little money.We slept on the floor of a friend's small apartment and the only "fine" dining experience we had was in the basement cafeteria of a department store. The rest of the time we survived on baguettes and water. We spent most of our time in Paris wandering the streets, bickering over directions, and I can't even remember if we actually made it to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Needless to say Paris was not the highlight of that summer of European adventures.

Our recent escape to the City of Light, was the antithesis of that backpacking trip. It was a weekend of luxury, decadence, gluttony, and excess. One of my favorite moments: sipping champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower with a full moon hovering over the sparkly city. That moment of bubbly bliss washed away the hour and half wait we had to endure before we could even buy the tickets that would enable us to be sardine-packed into an elevator full of strangers. The waffle covered in Nutella and whipped cream helped to take the edge off, but really it was that first sip of champagne that erased any remaining tension that had been burrowing in my gut. And that pattern repeated itself throughout the weekend: moments of doubt or frustration quickly disintegrated by digesting some tantalizing treat in a breathtaking spot of beauty.

Want to start planning your own blissful escape right now? Well, here's my travel tip for you: head over to Enrout, sign up for their $500 holiday giveaway ,and then start searching for the perfect get-away destination. I don't usually promote businesses or other websites unless it is something I would personally use and Enrout not only fits that description, it also gels perfectly with the way our little family likes to travel. As I have mentioned before, we are big fans of renting apartments/houses. It really is the best way to travel, especially with kids. But what I especially love about Enrout is that they search through all of my favorite rental sites (VRBO, Homeaway, TripAdvisor, etc) to come up with one comprehensive and streamlined list of possible accommodations that fit our specific needs. Time-saving and brilliant, right?

So what's on your list of decadent and delicious places to visit?

Au Revoir!

November 10, 2011

Yep. I'll just say it. We are spoiled. Spoiled rotten. This afternoon we are headed to Paris. I haven't done a ton of planning because this is the plan I have in my head: eat croissants, wander, eat eclairs, wander, eat macaroons, wander, fantasize about running into David Sedaris at a puppet show, watch the kids explore one park after another while sitting on a bench holding Adam's hand and reveling in how darn lucky we are. Paris for the weekend. It doesn't get much better than that, does it? 

Here are a few fun Paris links:
Somewhere in Paris
Americans in Paris
Kiki and Coco in Paris
Pocket Pacy
Ten Great Things to Do with Kids in Paris
In the Footsteps of Amelie Poulain
Paper City Paris 
Le Flaneur
Paris Underground

Hope you have a good weekend, too.


November 7, 2011

Exploring: The Turkish Steps

November 6, 2011

Bright white, rippled ridges, jutting out from the southern Sicilian coast like a piece of frilly wedding cake just waiting to be climbed and consumed. And that's just what we did a few weekends ago when we had some close friends visiting us from the States. After exploring the dramatic landscape of Agrigento and a fun farm stay at Villa San Marco (beautiful views of the temples lit up at night), we ventured south to the Turkish Steps. Ever since reading Madeline's post about this unique spot, I have been itching to visit and I am so glad that we finally did.

Plants vs. Zombies: Halloween 2011

November 5, 2011

That's right, the obsession continues. Noah was the flag zombie. Adam was the disco zombie. I was the conehead zombie. And Camille went with her own creation which we are hopeful will appear in future editions of the game: the polka-dotted, bad kitty-fairy. My proudest moment of creative inspiration came from turning a dumpster discovery (that great big gourd) into a pea shooter

Halloween itself was rainy so I chose to spend the night inside sipping wine, slurping soup, visiting with friends, handing out candy, and drying off wet children. Noah was done with the candy hunt after just a few blocks and headed home to hang out with his friends, but Camille trick-or-treated for two hours straight and brought home some incredibly, sweet loot. 

Halloween is a strange holiday isn't it? All year long we beg our children not to eat candy, we warn them about the dangers of strangers, we don't let them wander the streets at night, and then once a year we encourage them to do those very things. There are actually quite a few similarities between trick-or-treaters and zombies, except zombies prefer brains. Maybe next year we can recruit a few more zombies to join us for the  Halloween attack...we could use a football player, screen door zombie, and a sunflower!

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