Monthly Archives: October 2011

Jilbo Baggins


Theme day!

Five favorite Sicilian idiosyncrasies.

Uno (1). “Va bene.” This is pretty much Italian, and not limited to Sicily. However, I’m experiencing it here the most, so you get what you get from me. “Va bene” means “okay” for all intents and purposes, or “it’s going well/it goes well” if you want to get into a literal translation. I hear it ALL The time, and I love it.

Due (2). Focusing on the chile pepper as a symbol, but not really using it in your food. Yep, Sicilians aren’t known for spicy food. It *can* be spicy, but it isn’t really a food trait the way it is in Thailand or Mexico. You know, the other places where chile peppers are prominent parts of culture.

Tre (3). The cornetto – or “horn.” This can be the shape of the chile pepper (loose translation), the symbol your hand creates when you tuck your thumb and middle two fingers into your palm and then raise your index and pinkie fingers (note – there is another name for this and please use this gesture with caution!!!), OR, it can be a delicious pastry (i.e. croissant).

Quattro (4). Unpredictability. If you didn’t grasp that theme from the previous idiosyncrasies, I’m bringing it front and center now. No matter what you think you know about Sicilian food, driving, culture, formalities, informalities, style, shop hours, anything — you can easily find an experience that obliterates the rule you thought applied.

Cinque (5). Warmth and hospitality. The unending theme with the unbroken rule is that of a willingness to accept newcomers and endure poor language skills from foreigners. Heck, it’s right there in the history of the island, and it holds true today. In so many other cultures, there is mistrust or even suspicion and disdain expressed toward outsiders, and there is a dosage of that here, but it is by far the least prevalent attitude I have experienced.

Bella Sicilia!

Cento – as they say a picture is worth a thousand words and I was quite verbose in the “cinque” portion, I will leave you with this lovely photo, today. Looking forward to catching up with you tomorrow, leave me some comments about what you’d like to read about and see in photos on the blog and I’ll do my best to comply. Oh yes, and if you are scratching your head at the blogpost title, just put your mind grapes onto the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A truly geeky and great friend of mine let loose with Jilbo Baggins after LOTR became socially acceptable. Ha ha, love you Mike!

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Filed under 5-100, Adjusting

My Grandpa’s Flannel Shirt


(Uno) 1. Autumnal cleaning day – cleaned the house from top to bottom yesterday and it felt great! Today I enjoyed it, completely.

(Due) 2. Computer resurrection! My computer turned on, and I’m typing this post on it now. I have a visit to the Apple store at Centro Sicilia queued up for a post, and now it will have a happy ending!

(Tre) 3. Stumbling upon yet another mall in the Catania area, this one called Katane. I am not much of a mall person in general, but even I have to admit they make you feel good about shopping.

(Quattro) 4. Watching and loving Mulholland Drive. Nice work, David Lynch. Nice work.

(Cinque) 5. This is double using Mulholland Drive, but I was legitimately blown away by Naomi Watts‘ performance in a way I never had been before. As I watch the movie more and more (about once a year), I realize how she really makes the movie as awesome as it is.


Ask anyone who moves a lot, you end up moving the same things over and over and justify it by promising to use them! I cart around art supplies and my piano. I am not willing to give up these items, even as my use of them has decreased over the years. While I’m still figuring out how to fit arts activities into my schedule, I did manage to wear Grandpa Becker’s flannel shirt. Even when I could fit all of my belongings in my car, I still had Grandpa Becker’s shirt with me. Tonight, I’m snuggling into it happily.

Photo Gallery:

Today I’m sharing more Ottobrata Zafferanese pictures. I did not return today as I had planned to do, so I am reliving it with you in these pictures. See you next year, Ottobrata Zafferanese!

An overview of the festivities.

More views from a higher vantage point.

These next couple of shots feature a fried delicacy that I found pretty lacking in flavor and texture qualities. I was attracted to the vibrant color and the hope that it was a fried pickle, but then found out it is a crispy fried donut, flavored as pistachio (green) and fragola (strawberry – the red one). We didn’t even finish them.

Finally, we have a photo of one of the most delicious cheeses I have had in a…oh, well, that I had eaten THAT day. Since then I have had so many delicious cheeses here in Italy, that I lose track. That is charred ash on the outside and fresh ricotta inside. It was more firm than the ricotta you use in lasagna, or to stuff a canolo shell, and it was moist and delicioso! The block at the top shows a cross section.

Enjoy your Sunday!


Filed under 5-100, Awesomeness

Caleca Ceramiche: The Prequel


Uno (1). A busy day at work. It made the day fly by!

Due (2). Cuddle time on the couch with Dave. I fell asleep almost instantly.

Tre (3). Homemade margaritas. Thank you Uncle Michael for the delicious and always worthwhile recipe with freshly squeezed lime juice.

Quattro (4). Package & card from my Aunt Karrie!!! Thank you so much. Look at this sweet card.


Cinque (5). A warm bear hug from my mom!!! Well, it was the thought of such a hug, and that’s what counts. Thanks, Mama. I miss you, too.



Here is the down and dirty of Caleca ceramics. We start with photos of the factory, inventory shelves and the process of cutting and pressing ceramic placemats.




This worker slices chunks of clay to place into a press, peel off and lay the resulting placemat on a cart to dry for a few days; then it bakes in the kiln for several hours.











Queuing for the methane gas oven kiln.



“Enameling Department”





Plates dipped in special sauce.



Then, this woman…


…applies these labels before another baking.


Finally, the dish may come to these artists, who were in yesterday’s post.


Ciao ciao!

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Filed under 5-100, Travel

Caleca Ceramiche


Theme! Work lingo day.

(1) Uno. “NAVSUP” = Naval Supply Systems Command. I work in an office under NAVSUP control.

(2) Due. “Welcome Aboard!” = standard greeting for anyone joining a US Navy endeavor, because, you know, they are welcoming me onto the ship.

(3) Tre. “FLC” = Fleet Logistics Center. Sigonella is a NAVSUP FLC.

(4) Quattro. “Wave tops” = the highlights of an issue or indicators about the big picture.

(5) Cinque. “GLS” = Global Logistics Support. NAVSUP GLS is the upper echelon command center in San Diego.


Hand-painted Caleca ceramics (“ceramiche”), in Patti, Sicilia.

First, slap some paint in the middle. Next, several well-timed paint strokes while the wheel spins the plate underneath the artist’s hand. Each artist controlled the speed of the plate’s rotations.






After all that hard work, put it on a shelf to dry, and wait to add it to inventory or a new order.


Here are some other pictures from this famous ceramics maker, Caleca, who has an exclusive line with Williams Sonoma.




A cereal bowl whose shape is only sold at Williams Sonoma.


I visited the Caleca factory on an ITT group outing. Patti is about 90 minutes from Sigonella with a lovely sea view along almost the entire route.




Happy weekend!

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Filed under 5-100, Travel

Winter time’s a comin’


(1) Uno. Finishing the cat condo. Thanks to Kim for the double sided screw. Tee hee. (see my “duty” post if you aren’t laughing).

(2) Due. Tommasi wine. Yum.

(3) Tre. Nero d’Avola. That is Pinot Nero to many of you. It is delicious to me.

(4) Quattro. Sharing. We all know sharing is caring. Thanks, brother, for the running article; thanks friends for sharing my adventure; thanks world for sharing this ride.

(5) Cinque. More and more understanding of Italian. Listening to the radio both ways on the commute is bearing fruit. Liberi! Liberi di volare!


One day, it is sunny, hot and humid. For several days it was thus and I loved it. I swam, my eyelids sweated, and my dresses swirled. For several days after this time, the weather waned, the sunshine sought solace behind the ominous clouds. Then, one day, those ominous clouds let go their heavy burden and the earth was wetted with heavy rain. The winter rains have begun; not in earnest, but they have foreshadowed our winter. It will be wet. Luckily, I have memories of summer, travel and visitors, and work and love to keep me focused and happy.



Filed under 5-100, Adjusting

Chock Full o’News


Uno (1). Started my job!!!

Due (2). SkyTV installed at home!

Tre (3). Dave’s Mustache Mug featured in a Modern Family episode while it was sitting right there on the coffee table! Check out the photo below, you know you want one.

Quattro (4). “Tata” is everywhere right now. I see Tata trucks in Sicily, Goldie Hawn wrote about Tata stuff in her (pretty terrible) book, and now I just read it in my latest book adventure – “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese. Isn’t it funny how you can go your whole life and be unaware of a brand?

Cinque (5). This also reminds me of the other book project I am taking on – reading “Going Overboard: the misadventures of a military wife” by Sarah Smiley. A small group of military spouses opted for this book as a long-distance book club an excuse to reach out to each other.


Electricity! Shocks, charges, buzzes; you might think that electricity is the same everywhere – WRONG. Wink, wink – no need to fret, the electricity is obviously the same, it is just that the money-makers decided to make appliances and circuits run on different voltage and hertz cycles in different parts of the world. Here in Sicily, we run 220 volts, and in the U.S. the voltage is 110. The hertz cycle affects anything that has a circuit – like the timer on your coffee machine or alarm clock. This renders much of our electronics pretty much useless without a transformer. To be continued…



Filed under 5-100, Adjusting



Uno (1). Got my very first blogging award! Thank you, Logy Express!!! My duties with the award will be fulfilled by the week’s end.

Due (2). Completed even more data for my JOB! I’m so excited for the analyzing to begin…(yes, my job title is “Analyst”). I am about to test my admiration of the 9-5 lifestyle that plagues Logy Express. 😉

Tre (3). Sipping Tuscan wines with Hal, Anisette and Dave.

Quattro (4). Religulous. Anisette was excited to talk to us about it and luckily the Sigonella library had it on the shelf. Great movie, definitely thought provoking and hilariously produced.

Cinque (5). “Km 0” – this is a Slow Food idea of sourcing as many ingredients locally as possible. Several Tuscan restaurants highlighted “Km 0” items on their menus. It is a mix of the Eat Local movements in the U.S. and the idea of terroir (often credited to the French). In all, it is an agreement to focus on the value of food as community, art, and vocation. The phrase “Km 0” has an Italian history, so it is a fitting title for this practice.


Fagottini! What’s a fagottini? Trust me, you’ll know it when you see it! That doesn’t help you, does it? I was introduced to the fagottini in my former life as a server at Lombardino’s, and forgot all about it until last weekend. We were dining on a fabulous lunch in Sovana, at Ristorante dei Merli, and Dave ordered a fagottini for dessert. Fagottini is a “bundle” of something, and it looks like a purse or the satchel on the end of a hobo’s stick. They can be made savory or sweet. Here’s an Italian recipe, translated as “Bundle of Apples.”







Filed under 5-100, Food. Cibo.