Exploring: Marzamemi

January 31, 2012

After a nice Sunday walk in Vendicari, we ventured south to the fishing village of Marzamemi. Unassuming buildings pushing us towards the open space of the simple, but inviting piazza. Gorgeous stone walls, enticing doors painted vibrant turquoise and red,  boats bobbing in the water and a tasty lunch at Taverna La Cialoma (especially the octopus salad and eggplant with lemon ricotta). We were on a mission to share a piece of Sicily with Nicola and actually we ended up experiencing something new and wonderful ourselves (thank you, Margaret!).

Sunday Walk

January 30, 2012

Vendicari Nature Reserve: flamingos, cormorants, colorful kingfishers, beach balls, fluffy winter grass...it is still one of our favorite spots in Sicily and it was fun to share it with Nicola.

Pink Soup

January 29, 2012

Here's a recent recipe from Camille:

-Dig out two old bottles of strawberry milk from under the back seats of your van
-Pour into a large pot
-Stir again
-Pour into a cup and try to convince your mother to drink it

Here are two kid friendly cook books we like:

Both of these cook books have illustrated steps so kids can follow and concoct easily. Both have recipes that appeal to adults and kids. Both are worth buying and using again and again. Neither one of them recommends using rotten strawberry milk, but they still have good recipes.

Lots of things have been "cooking" around here lately. Serious dragon construction work, lantern hanging, and lots of book reading. And we are in the midst of another amazing author visit. This time the author is from England and she's written some very cool, animal tales. Like this one and this one and this long time family favorite (not recommended for use in the kitchen or for reading while eating). Hope you have been cooking up some good things, too.

Sunday Remnants

January 22, 2012

I have never been a fan of apples. Just hasn't been my thing. The crunch, the tartness, the sweetness, none of it ever really appealed to me. Until a few months ago when there was some kind of seismic shift in my taste buds. I think it might have started after Thanksgiving when I had a leftover bag of cranberries and decided on a whim to give Ina's cranberry apple cake recipe a try. I only planned on having a taste while letting Adam and the kids gobble it down, but that never happened. I ended up eating the majority of that darn cake. 

From the apple cake, I progressed to eating apple slices. That probably sounds strange, right? Who doesn't grow up in America not eating apple slices? (it's right up there with not eating apple pie, right?) I cut up apple slices on a near daily basis for my kids and yet they were never anything I'd felt compelled to actually put into my own mouth. And then things got really radical when I found myself drawn to apple juice and I even made a couple of crock pots full of mulled apple cider. 

So this morning, I found myself craving apples and dreaming of apple muffins. I eagerly peeled and chopped in anticipation and even took pics of the pretty remnants.  It turns out it wasn't the perfect recipe, but that's the nice part of baking on a Sunday morning. There's no pressure to have perfection and it's fun to try something spontaneously.  But if you do have a good recipe for apple muffins, please share. I am happy to pass along the Barefoot Contessa recipe that initiated this recent apple craze. I am actually thinking about giving it a try with pears in place of cranberries, doesn't that sound good, too?

Easy Cranberry and Apple Cake


  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over for stems
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine the cranberries, apple, brown sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. With the mixer on medium, add 1 cup of the granulated sugar, the butter, vanilla, and sour cream and beat just until combined. On low speed, slowly add the flour and salt.
Pour the fruit mixture evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate. Pour the batter over the fruit, covering it completely. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle it over the batter. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the fruit is bubbling around the edges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

On Strike

January 21, 2012

It's been an interesting week here in Lake Wobegone Sicily. For the past five days, the Sicilian truckers, farmers, and fishermen have been on strike. That may not sound like such a big deal, but it is turning into one. Big rig trucks and tractors have been blocking major intersections, toll booths, and even shut down parts of the major interstate/autostrada. Gas stations have been out of gas all week. Grocery stores are out of milk, eggs, and other products. Everyone is being urged to conserve gas, limit travel, and carpool when possible. School teachers have started riding the school buses with the kids to get to school each day. 

Protestors have been camping out in clumps along the roadways trying to get their message across, trying to make some changes. I don't understand all of the intricacies of this particular strike, but I do know that Sicily is struggling and there doesn't seem to be much recognition for that. The Sicilians I have spoken to are upset that this five day strike hasn't been reported in the National Italian news. There have been meetings, but no apparent resolutions and the end is not in sight. The truckers won't continue to strike, but next week there will reportedly be a week long strike by all of the gas stations. And next weekend we have been warned about a possible airline strike. It's tense. 

And yet, as I slowly wound my way through the group of protesting farmers and truckers yesterday, I found myself fighting an urge to pull over and join them. Mixed in between my feelings of frustration about the increased traffic jams and my worry about running low on gas, I had this surreal moment of desire. The scene I had been witnessing for the past few days looked strangely inviting. Men gathered around a small fire, grilling and eating artichokes fresh from the nearby fields, chatting, using their hands for extra emphasis. A slice of Sicily in the midst of chaos. Hoping things get resolved soon.

Little Pink Chapel

January 18, 2012

Nestled next to the railroad tracks, big green doors with a padlock, fresh roses in a water bottle as an offering, a remembrance, some sign of life and devotion.

Exploring: Eurialo Castle

January 17, 2012

Hiking in the steps of Archimedes, soaking up the same stunning and strategic views he had of Siracusa, climbing through tunnels he designed over 2000 years ago: Eurialo Castle is the perfect place for an afternoon of time traveling. Which is exactly why swords are essential. Seeing our young friend with his trusty wooden sword reminded me of our first trip to Agrigento when Noah was around the same age and he had his light saber close at hand. Boys and swords and Sicily...seems to be something timeless about that combination.

Inner Workings

January 13, 2012

Musee d'Orsay, Paris, November 2011

Fiberglass books, dancing books, and moving gears. It's all been on my mind in the past few days. I love when overlapping experiences merge in these synchronistic snaps. I think it started with a recent viewing of Hugo which prompted me to re-visit the book and study those illustrations that captivated me so much the first time I read it. 

I have to admit to being a bit nervous about watching Hugo. It's hard to see beloved books twisted and morphed into screen productions that just never have the same magic as the original source of inspiration. That's why it was such a relief and a delight to discover that Hugo, the movie, was it's own wonderful creation. I still love the book best, but I was entranced by the elaborate settings and the old movie connections that were brought to life. If you were also enchanted by all of the gears and towering books, be sure to read this recent NY Times piece about the making of the movie. 

I am always interested in seeing how things get created and this glimpse at the set design ultimately brought me back to an aspect of Selznick's work that I love: his notes at the end of each book. Reading his notes is essentially the process of peeking into his inner workings as an author. The sparks of initial interest, the tangled layers of research and collaboration, and the journey of putting it all together. I love that he shares these details with the reader because it adds even more depth to the experience. (By the way, Wonderstruck, his newest book is also a great read including the notes at the end). 

And then while sifting through photos from our trip to Paris back in November, I stumbled upon a series of shots I took at Musee d'Orsay. An old train station that is now a beautiful museum (you can read about that transition here). I had somehow forgotten about that dramatic experience of viewing Paris through the old station clock. Like Hugo, peering out while also working within. But really the most joyful "behind the scenes" book experience is a sweet little video which some of my favorite book reading friends sent me earlier today (Thanks, Jess and Betsey). After watching The Joy of Books, it's hard not to pick up a book, and that's exactly what I plan to do right now. Hope your weekend includes some good books, too!

Austrian Knitted Tree

January 12, 2012

 Spotted outside the Salzburg Museum: a tree wearing a cheerful hand-knit sweater! And apparently knitted trees aren't unique to Austria. Check out these colorful and cozy trees in Austin, New York, and Seattle. Have any near you?


January 10, 2012

I am sure I am not the only one who has noticed the surge in graphic novels for both kids and adults, right? Growing up, I was never really a fan of comics (except for The Far Side), but I have always loved books with little to no text. Once I had kids that love intensified and together we dove into some real treasures together.  And then Noah started learning to read. For a variety of reasons,  it wasn't an easy process. One of the challenging aspects of becoming a new reader was that Noah strongly disliked all of the early readers. I have to admit that I could understand his perspective. Most of those early reading books really are boring and babyish. I never thought I'd be singing the praises of a superhero in underwear, but when the giggling started and my reluctant reader begged to let him read a little bit longer each night, I had to re-consider my  initial hesitation. His love of the genre has continued to grow and now seems to be spreading to Camille and I think it's a good thing.

At around the same time Noah started to read independently, my own reading took a turn. I can't remember which book started the shift but suddenly young adult lit and graphic novels didn't seem quite as unappealing and actually started to grab my attention. I am sure that part of that shift was a result of that particular stage of motherhood. Camille was still a baby/toddler and Noah was quite the active monkey boy. I was sleep deprived and could barely make it through one page before falling asleep each night. I needed books that were short, captivating, and different. And these were. 

It's interesting to note how many graphic novels/series have recently been turned into movies (Hugo, Tin Tin, Extremely Loud). So far we have only seen Hugo, but we were all very impressed with how well the film was done and loved how it brought the whole movie aspect of the novel to life. Hoping to see the other films soon, too and curious to see how they make the transition from print to film.

So here is my attempt to list some of our favorites. Please, share yours, too. We are always eager for new reading material and I'd especially love to get more recommendations for young adult/adult graphic novels. And before I forget, check out The Graphic Classroom  for even more suggestions.

For Kids

-The Adventures of Polo (series)
- Tin Tin (series)
- Moomin (series)
- Sardine in Outer Space
- Captain Underpants
- Adventures in Cartooning
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret
- Around the World
- Amelia Earhart
- Sidekicks
- Baby Mouse (series)
- The Arrival
- The Crocodile Blues
-Dragon Breath (series)
- The Bone (series)
- Lunch Lady (series)
-  Rabbi Harvey (series)
- Meanwhile

For Young Adults/Adults

- French Milk
- Persepolis
- The Book Thief
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

January List

January 8, 2012

For Mesmerizing:   Murmation
For Parents:   The Birds, The Bees, and The Frogs
For Friends:    Margaret and Helen
For $5 Laughs:  Louis CK (not for family viewing!)
For Chinese New Year: Dumpling Days
For Traveling:   In 2012
For Spinning: The Bicycle Animation

Mona Lisa Through Their Eyes

January 5, 2012

They were disappointed by how small she was and that we had to stand so far back and that she was behind glass. But when Noah pulled out his camera, that famous face suddenly became much more interesting to both of them. I bet da Vinci never imagined his work would be viewed like this...behind so many layers of people, physical barriers, and digital lenses.

When She's Ready, She's Ready

January 4, 2012

 Same girl, different puddle, different bike: a new year.

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