Monthly Archives: August 2011

Buon giorno? Ciao? Which is it?


  1. Enjoyed reading “Watership Down”        ( while sipping tea with my breakfast. I also learned that the library terrace employs a broadcasted bird call for bird and pest deterrence. It reminded me of the owl statues used in Seattle ( The owl statues are more quietly effective.
  2. Set up a job interview!
  3. Attempted my speed workout for this week. I got some good speedwork in, and it helped me decide how to structure my running goals; baby steps instead of moon-surface-leaps.
  4. Completed all of the errands on my to-do list!
  5. Got a good snuggle out of Maki, my less-snuggly cat.

Salve, buon giorno! (Hi, good morning!) Here inItaly, it is common to call out a greeting when you enter an office, a store, or someone’s home. Greetings are a polite way to announce your arrival and they show respect, especially to the elder generation. Once you are friendly with someone, or at the very least you are familiar with one another, then you can switch to the less formal greeting “Ciao!” You should never use “ciao” when speaking to an elderly person, always stick to “buon giorno” until about 1-2pm and then switch to “buona sera” (good afternoon/evening). Arrivederci!

***Random photo today***

This woman was waiting at the bus station during my lengthy wait.

Like most Italian women, she seemed to be no-nonsense…

…and then her phone rang.

Her ringtone was Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!”



Filed under 5-100, Adjusting, Kitties

How to Order Italian Style

I’m adjusting to the Italian life. During my visit to Catania yesterday, I remembered the first lesson in snacking at a bar. The first lesson was to go inside the bar attached to the outdoor tables in the Piazza del Duomo ( and request a table, which I did in Italian! (Remember here, a “bar” is a cafe, and you need to check in with the host before claiming your outdoor table). However, I quickly slipped away from emulating Italians and gave in to my first instinct. My first instinct was to order everything I wanted right away, and it all came out at the same time.

It all came at the same time, but I couldn’t eat it all at the same time. So, naturally, I started with the arancino. As you can see, an arancino is a fried rice ball, stuffed with some yummy filling. You might not be able to see the accompanying breadcrumbs on the outside crust. This one had tomato and eggplant inside and it was good and filling without being rich and heavy. This surprised me a little since it was fried.

After the arancino, I quickly downed my espresso, which was just warm enough to say it was still drinkable. Then, I turned to my granita. Ruh-roh. In the time it took me to get to the granita, it had already started to melt considerably. With the hot Sicilian sun, granita always melts before you finish it, and even moreso when I gave the melting a head start.

As I progressed through my lunch, I noticed that the Italians surrounding me ordered in bits and pieces. An espresso here, a pastry there, maybe another espresso to finish, or a bottle of water as an afterthought. In retrospect, I could easily have started with the arancino, then flagged down the server for the espresso, sipped and enjoyed that, and finally ordered the granita when I was ready for it. The good news is, I’m ready for next time! The better news is, the granita was still incredibly delicious and refreshing.



Filed under Adjusting, Food. Cibo.

It’s All Relative.


  1. Started the new work-out schedule. Mon-Wed mornings, Thurs off, Fri & Sat mornings, Sun off.
  2. Had a fruitful conversation with Giuseppe while waiting for the bus intoCatania. He is the guy who parks outside of NAS I and sells produce. Yesterday he was selling roasted peanuts (in the shell) and watermelon, I got samples of both and an invite to dine with his family (agriturismo-style, there is a fee). He was the most aggressive salesperson I’ve encountered here and he was overall incredibly pleasant.
  3. Navigated finding a good bookstore, department store and celebrating my respective purchases with an arancino (tomate e melanzane), un espresso e una granita di limone (pictured in following post). Yummy.
  4. Focused on the positive after I missed my bus!
  5. Explored information on the Aeolian Islands( We have friends vacationing inTuscany, but travel prices are keeping us closer to home, so we’re taking the opportunity to explore these nearby islands which have housed civilizations for 6,000 years.

“It’s ALL relative!”* Who of you groan when I say this? I torture myself with it, too. For instance, yesterday when returning from Catania, I missed my bus. “My bus” runs every four hours, I arrived 30 minutes early, and still missed it! Instead of feeling utterly defeated, I said, “It’s All Relative! Two routes in one day, yippee.” Yes, it meant waiting another hour (hot sun), the return ride was over twice as long (50 minutes), and I paid the bus fare twice (1 Euro). Yet, I had my health, book and iphone, so I was sitting well, relatively.


*For anyone who also thinks of a particular Friends episode featuring a game category “It’s All Relative” – watch episode 412 (dialog here: (don’t worry about the Chinese characters)).

Another note: My hyperlink function is not functioning. I am working with WordPress to figure out the problem and until then ask you to bear with me as I cut and paste the links directly into the text.

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Summer Morning Breezes


  1. Scrumptious breakfast omelette, by Dave, of pistacchios, havarti, and egg whites; he griddled slices of olive bread, too; finally a glass of carrot & orange juice.
  2. Meandering our way, “sensa” (without) the GPS, to Lido Azzurro.
  3. Explaining in mangled Italian that I wanted sun beds “lontano” (far) away from the DJ (too much bass disturbs me).
  4. Delightful sunsoaking and floating in the Ionian Sea.
  5. Watching first a French, and then a German crime show dubbed into Italian, and listening intently for comprehension.

A difficult aspect of living abroad is missing out on special moments with family. My dad celebrated his birthday this weekend and I left him a message, but it wasn’t the same. I’ve lived away from home since I was 18, so I’ve been reaching out creatively for a long time. Then, when I married, I came into a warm fold of 14 more people to get to know (and who get to know me). It’s been great. In honor of family connections, I’m linking to my brother’s blog ( And, cheers to my immediate family: Mom, Dad, Jenni & Jim!

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Lido Azzurro


1. Sleeping in.
2. Great workout.
3. Visit to Enna, charming hilltop town (look for pics later his week).
4. Granita di limone on a hot afternoon.
5. Delicious pizza delivery while we did laundry, aruula, prosciutto and parmigiana. Yum!

Today is my first post from my beloved iPhone, while soaking up sun at Lido Azzurro. We saw thousands of cars lining the beach road, and lucked out with one of the final spots in Azzurro’s parking lot. This lido has much to offer: DJ, lifeguards, sand volleyball courts, kiddie pool, and more. We rented beach chairs and an umbrella. Uncle Bill, it is a lot like Mexico, beach vendors and all. As peaceful and relaxing as this is, I am thinking about my friends enduring a different sea phenomenon, Hurricane Irene. May you all be safe while she passes.


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Piazza Sigonella


  1. Impromptu run-ins with friends on base = strategy meetings for finding work. @ Piazza Sigonella, see pictures below.
  2. Cherry tomatoes baked into foccacia bread, halved bread smeared with caramelized onions and layered with auricchio piccante (Provolone cheese, dry)(
  3. Got Dave’s ration card so we can buy booze on base.
  4. Priced treadmills, thinking about a Nordic Track treadmill (4500 Pro)( Anybody with a treadmill have comments or thoughts to share?
  5. Soaked up loads of warm, loving, Sicilian sunshine!

Technology is a classic double-edged sword. Even if you’re reading this blog (a prime example of a technological benefit), I suspect you are someone who thinks about technology’s drawbacks. Technology makes work easier…except when you have to be trained on new software (time). Technology enables global communication, except you have to pay for it (money). Technology moves the world forward and brings us closer to each other, except when we use it to build walls and hide within cyber communities (relationships). Despite relying on technology to do so, I am grateful that I can share my Sigonella experiences with y’all!

Looking east down the piazza.


Looking west up the piazza.


Filed under 5-100, Food. Cibo.

From Top Pot to “Che cos’e?”


  1. Successfully recovered Dave from the Catania airport, including not one, not two, but three failed attempts to find the passenger pick-up area before finally connecting! “Grazie mille” (thank you a thousand time) to all of the gracious Italians who either ignored me or gently told me I could not enter the lane clearly marked for Bus and Taxi only.
  2. Snuck in a 2-hour “riposo” (the Italian “siesta” or mid-afternoon downtime when some people nap), very indulgent, and it felt great.
  3. Took care of some financial tasks on the to-do list!
  4. Enjoyed a leisurely dinner with Dave; rucoletta pizza (tomato, buffalo mozzarella, arugula), Benuara wine (Nero d’Avola and Syrah), and Tartufo for dessert. We took our time, savoring the food, conversation, and temperate evening.
  5. Began Robert Downey, Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes. I’m a big RDJ fan and he looks great in this movie. I love a good comeback story and he has a great one. As for the moive, it is funny, has quirky character development, but it couldn’t keep me awake past the 1:30 mark. I will finish it tonight.

 I experience anxiety. This can apply to matters as simple as buying pastries. I don’t eat a whole lot of pastries in the first place, so when I see a line-up of delicious goodies staring at me with nary a name to them, I start to panic. Yet, faced with the same scenario at Top Pot, I had no anxiety about asking “what’s that?” Here, I barely know whether to order first or pay first, much less which name to call the pastry! As of today, I will ask “che cos’e?” (what’s that?) no matter how much anxiety lurks within.

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Food, glorious food.


  1. Basil pesto. Yummy. We had some pesto left over from pasta and I spread it on my sandwich with dinner.
  2. Caramelized onions. I made these at home tonight from onions we bought at the market. As they were room temperature when I started cutting, the air was ripe with the onion acid and even the kitties could not escape red-rimmed eyes (see Panther’s photo below). The deliciously sweet result made it all worth it.
  3. Back to Nature Nantucket Blend: Almonds, Raisins, Cranberries, Cherries, Pistacchios. 50 years of deliciousness and it all started in Madison, Wisconsin! How did Back to Nature escape my notice for the 10 years I lived in Madison?!!
  4. Post-run Gatorade I drank while skyping with my dear friend Z, thanks for getting up early to chat, Z! (Run was 1st training run: 1 mile warm-up, 4 x 250 repeats at 7.5 (8:00/mile), 1 mile warm-down.)
  5. Carrot & orange juice combo I sipped on while watching Evita last night. What a fun musical, and it was fun to watch Madonna in a movie when she’s not messing things up trying to act. Stick to singing and sing-acting, you are awesome at those!

Warning: More iphone love ahead!!! I promise I am not receiving any endorsements from Apple or iphone, it is just that I am really innamorata (enamored) with my smartphone. (Note: Steve Jobs resigned.) Specifically, yesterday I saved six articles, and then when I had a free moment, there they were in my pocket, just waiting for me to read them. Additionally, I bought Adele’s new album “21” yesterday and enjoyed the simplicity of ipod and phone in one! While I could have had these luxuries in the states, these discoveries are even more fun abroad. Now to start adding apps…

Panther recovering…

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Filed under 5-100, Food. Cibo., Kitties

“The Evolution of the Human Head,” and Homer (not Simpson).


  1. Science Tuesdays in the (especially this article about “The Evolution of the Human Head” by Daniel Lieberman (gift idea for anyone who’s interested; and amazon ships to FPO AE addresses)).
  2. Remembered latent memories of my dear friend Lester’s comments about how her iphone changed her life (for the better) – they convinced me to get my iphone and I’m LOVING it. Thanks, Lester!
  3. Mastered more functions on my iphone, and actually felt my position shift on the technological spectrum.
  4. I love the Sigonella library, it delivered the book “La Bella Lingua” by Dianne Hales into my eager hands.
  5. Used my new yoga mat; I have one coming in our household goods shipment, but I couldn’t wait and bought a new one this weekend. You can always use an extra yoga mat, especially when Bryan Kest is in the house. Power Yoga, holla! (Here’s a great blogpost about a BK training session this summer.)

To my U.S. sense of national history (200+ years), the historical culture in Italy is intoxicating (eons). Sicily has myriad historical reminders: ruins, landmarks, buildings and infrastructure that are hundreds of years old (and still in use!). One such landmark is part of Homer’s stories in The Odyssey (Homer was an epic poet). The Cyclops, Polyphemus (“Polifemo”), threw rocks at the departing ship of Odysseus (protagonist) as he fled modern-day Aci Trezza. Whereas I grew up learning stories of Lewis andClark (supercool, don’t get me wrong), Sicilian children grew up learning stories of Odysseus. That realization rocked my world.

*If you’re interested in Homer’s stories, check out a neat-o website that tells the stories:

The Cyclops Island and the three rocks he threw at Odysseus, in Aci Trezza.


Filed under 5-100, Adjusting

Fiat Punto.

In Spanish, “punto” means point, and is also the word for the period you put at the end of the sentence. Somewhere along the meandering path of my Spanish language studies, I adopted the phrase “Y punto!” to emphasize the end of my point or a story. Essentially I meant it to mean “And, that is that!” (I’ve also tried to insert it into many a Smith story, to little avail.) As many multi-lingual or multi-somewhat-lingual people may be prone to do, I like to insert my favorite phrases across language lines. So, I will sometimes throw “y punto!” into conversation with English speaking friends, and well, they don’t get the cutesie phrase, but it pleases me nonetheless.

Knowing this, you might be able to imagine my pleasure at finding the Fiat Punto waiting for us at our hotel when we arrived in Italy. Not only is it a truly Italian brand, it is a Punto!

Once you see the following photos, you may also be able to imagine how different adjectives sprang to mind as we inspected the vehicle.

Well, it doesn’t look too bad, not too bad at all. I can imagine riding around in this car for weeks as we settle in and get things figured out.

Wait. What’s that you say? This Punto doesn’t have air conditioning, not even on a good day?

And, then we also have the dented door panels. Oh well, guess we don’t have to worry about dinging up the rental car!

What I can say is that it is a manual with a homemade anti-theft system (it’s a secret, don’t ask). Since neither Dave or I have owned a manual transmission automobile, we’ve really enjoyed learning on a rental car’s clutch. It has taken a little bit of abuse from each of us (talk about the “what’s that smell” effect…), and we’ve traded theories about the best way to (a) get into first gear, (b) downshift smoothly, (c) avoid the glug when shifting into second gear. Leave your best advice in the comments, if you have tips!

Italian drivers are both living up to the hype, and surprisingly steady drivers. The key to driving here (anywhere, really) is to view the road as a video game screen and realize that vehicles, people, animals, random flying objects, burning vegetation, bicycles, pedestrians, road workers, etc. can enter into the screen from any direction, at any time; they will expect you to maintain your speed and direction. So, the best way to drive safely is to do just that – maintain the car’s speed and direction as you are aware of what’s going on around you.

For example, cars passing from behind make more of a smooth “S” shape as they pass you, just barely clearing your back bumper on the way into the passing lane, and slipping past your front bumper on the way back into the driving lane. By the way, you might never see this car in your rearview mirror, depending on the curves of the road and the speed of the car. Oh yea, and they pass you just about anywhere. And, that’s legal to do if you are going “slowly” and the pass they made was reasonaly safe for the conditions. (I’m paraphrasing our Italian driving instructor’s comment about legality.) This passing technique is quite different from the U.S. where a car will approach from behind, ride your bumper for a while, peek out a few times to check for traffic, finally move out into the passing lane well behind you and complete the pass in more of a “U” shape.

Right about now, some of you are wondering about the phenomenon of sharing a two-lane road amongst three (or even four) cars. Yes, it happens. No, it doesn’t happen a lot (at least not yet). In the case that during a pass, an oncoming car approaches, the expectation is to make room for all of the cars to fit on the road and complete their maneuvers. That means the oncoming car and the car being passed will move to the shoulder to accommodate the passing car. Well, you move to where you *wish* there was a shoulder, and hope for the best.

Other than the speed racers, the rest of Italian drivers just want to get from point A to point B like the rest of us. They are accustomed to grouping and ungrouping in untidy clumps around the roundabouts, and that is the way all of traffic goes here. Usually, the clump of cars has some amount of forward motion and everyone jostles for position, sometimes letting another car into the clump and other times cutting across the nose of three different vehicles on the way to an exit. The Italians practice a belief in the phrase “Oggi a me, domani a te” (literally: Today to me, tomorrow to you) “Today it may be me, tomorrow it may be you” who needs to cut across the traffic. It is this pragmatic sentiment, and not an overabundance of generosity, that results in relatively few horns being sounded during traffic rush hours.

The horn is more frequently used as a very light beep-beep to alert other drivers, bicyclists and persons on the roadway. The car sounds the horn going around tight corners, or heading into a one-lane tunnel (there are plenty of them here), or when it sees a car poking its nose out of a blind driveway, or at a bicyclist on a narrow road. The horn in these instances means “Hello! Here I am! I’m coming and I’m not slowing down! You look lovely in one piece, please stay where you are! Ciao!”

E punto.


Filed under Adjusting