Monthly Archives: November 2011

Ah, Genève


Theme Day! Genève, Suisse is the topic. Known to this English-speaker as Geneva, Switzerland. Today’s post lists five observations that stood out to me while I was in Genève, and a mini-description of our trip.

(Uno) 1. Scooters.

No, not this kind.


THIS kind.


Upon disembarking from the train that was FREE from the airport to downtown, I saw a person coming toward me on a scooter. As we neared each other I was first surprised to notice it was an adult on the scooter, then I was shocked to see in was a fit woman in her mid-fifties (or older) scooting along. Following my first encounter, I saw men, women, and children of all ages on scooters throughout the city.


(Due) 2. Reflective vests. Reflective jackets. I saw a whole lotta people wearing a whole lotta reflective stuff. More than usual. Of course, city safety officials had entire reflective outfits, but everyday outerwear was often reflective, too.

(Tre) 3. Related to the reflective wear, but definitely in a different category are the shiny puffy jackets. You remember the puffy jacket craze, right?
Well, apparently, this trend is back in Genève, but with the typical modification that “recreates” the look into something modern. These puffy jackets are SHINY – and everyone was wearing them, young, old, classy, not-so-classy (I didn’t see anyone in Genève who qualified as trashy). Maybe the Genevese children convinced their parents a shiny puffy jacket is just as safe as a reflective vest?



(Quattro) 4. Boots, tights, short skirts. EVERYWHERE! I have to admit, I want to duplicate the look. I have been searching for a pair of boots for a while, and I want to wear them with tights this winter. The weather here in Sicilia is perfect, in Genève I thought the amount of skin to cool temperatures was a little high.

Here are some examples of looks that I saw:



(Cinque) 5. My favorite – runners! Genève is a running city if there ever was one. You could probably make a half-marathon out of skipping about from park to park Rive Gauche (left bank of the river), over the bridge and doing the same thing on the other side of the city. The Rhône River empties into Lake Geneva in between the two sides of the city. On Saturday we saw several pairs of mothers and daughters running, or so we assumed. Unfortunately, I had left my running shoes behind, I won’t make that mistake again!


Our trip to Genève was inspired by my friend Margs, who is working at the United Nations (UN). We arrived with jackets, scarves, hats and gloves. Of that list, I have only used scarves in Sicilia. Genève temperatures were between four and six degrees Celcius; much cooler than the average of fifteen to nineteen degrees Celcius in Sicilia. The colder air was refreshing and my Wisconsin blood stirred at the mere possibility of snow. We didn’t get THAT lucky, but we did get to walk and take public transit everywhere we went, plenty of outdoor time. Ah, Genève, merci beaucoup!


Filed under 5-100, Running, Travel

The Italian Christmas Donkey


(Uno) 1. This delightful video posted by a Facebook friend whose son’s name is Domenic. That explains why she likes it. “Hee haw, hee haw” explains why I like it. Careful, this is one that gets stuck in your head.

(Due) 2. Any mention of my holiday favorites. For me, Christmas is about sharing feelings with family, and nothing helps me share like Home Alone, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated version, fool!), The Sound of Music, White Christmas, and the thought of a thick white snow blanketing the world outside my cozy nook on the couch.

(Tre) 3. Funny headlines by Michael K – “Your Boyfriend Ryan Gosling Is Still Cheating On You With That Homewrecking Whore Eva Mendes.” Thanks for posting, Claire! p.s. I love both Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes.

(Quattro) 4. Shrimp. Shrimp are the “chicken of the sea” in my book. They are small and plentiful, like chicken, and they have flavor profiles in relation to their diet and environment. Also, for me, just like I do not eat chicken, I do not eat shrimp.

(Cinque) 5. Getting back into my running shoes after the long holiday weekend. Refreshing!


Visiting Geneva over Thanksgiving was a silver lining of spending holidays away from family. After the silver lining fades, my nostalgia for my family Thanksgiving remains: food! (stuffing, cranberries, dinner rolls and butter, pecan pie), long-winded & rambling stories (sort of a family trait, you know, one I’m foolishly trying to rise above), watching a movie after dinner (either Home Alone in the dvd player or going to the theater together), and sharing, cajoling and laughing together as we create that special family buzz, the warm, squishy feeling in your full belly when you’ve been surrounded by laughter and love.


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Taking a step to the side


(Uno) 1. Signor Messina! My lovely landlord is hilarious. We make each other giggle with his efforts to speak slowly and my attempts to interpret the words I don’t yet understand, no matter how clearly he speaks. He wanted a sponge (“spugna” – say it “spoo-nay” like you say lasagna) – and I didn’t know that word. We worked out it was something you use to wash plates (words I know, people! lavare = wash, piatti = plates). Then, I showed him several towels of varying sizes. No, no, no. He kept emphasizing washing plates, so finally I figured it out! But we don’t have any sponges because I use dishrags, washcloths and loofah balls for scrubbing. Ha ha ha. We had a good laugh at that one.

(Due) 2. Ricotta salata – mmmm, we’ve been stocking the fridge with a variety of soft cheeses embedded with peperoni (the Italian word has one “p” and refers to peppers, not meat), black peppercorns, fresh herbs, etc. We just returned to the salty simplicity of ricotta salata. Oh, life is good.

(Tre) 3. Electronic/digital correspondence and banking. I know that part of the fun of moving overseas is figuring out all the difficult challenges living abroad creates. HOWEVER – doing so with the ease of online banking, using skype to call our insurance company from home (not to mention keeping in touch on the holidays), and knowing Amazon is there to fulfill any needs for which I have not found Italian substitutes. Thank you innovators.

(Quattro) 4. Crisp, clear autumn mornings tinted pink and orange by the sun rising over the sea. I will try to capture this in photo to share with you soon. We spent a few days in Geneva recently and it was clouded over, so I am really appreciating the Sicilian sunshine now that we’re back!

(Cinque) 5. Books! I have not kept up on my book reviews (there is a stack of books full of sticky notes waiting…) – but I am still reading for leisure. For book club, I just completed Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. I am still digesting the book. To me, that means I haven’t decided if it is worth recommending to others. It was a really interesting book and it has a surprising betrayal that is causing me to withhold my opinion.


Feeling out of place is expected when you move to a new city, take a new job, join a new club. As you assimilate, you find your place. On the flip side, upon leaving your current culture, you are relieved of the chaffing against certain cultural practices you had learned to endure. I was happy to avoid this year’s “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” build up and execution. Now, I’m joining Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative, continuing my personal pledge since 2003 to reduce my clothing purchases. Now I am joining a group of like-minded people who still like to look cute!

Take the Pledge!

A lovely display of oranges in one of the many orange groves in the rural area around base.

WE make useful gear
that lasts a long time
YOU don’t buy what
you don’t need

WE help you repair
your Patagonia gear
YOU pledge to fix
what’s broken

WE help find a home
for Patagonia gear
you no longer need
YOU sell or pass it on*

WE will take back your Patagonia gear that
is worn out
YOU pledge to
keep your stuff out
of the landfill
and incinerator

TOGETHER we reimagine
a world where we take
only what nature
can replace


Filed under 5-100, Awesomeness

Pine nuts!


(Uno) 1. Long holiday weekends! What day is it? I love losing my sense of place within the false construct of the weekly schedule.

(Due) 2. Mt. Etna has snow! I know I have mentioned this before – but, with the eruption and all, the snow has melted and returned a few times. This significant dumping looks like it might be here to stay.

(Tre) 3. Checking out where people live – like our neighbor Warren. We toured each others apartments to compare floor plans and it was such fun.

(Quattro) 4. Snuggling up for the night with Dave on one side of me, and my book on the other (open, of course!).

(Cinque) 5. Skype! Skype is the best. With Skype you can see facial expressions that a phone call just cannot capture.

Pine nuts! We gathered (with encouragement) these beautiful pine cones while we were at Parco Avventura and we have been letting them dry out. The seed pods that drop out are supposedly encasing the ever-delicious pine nut. If you have enjoyed an authentic basil pesto, then you have enjoyed pine nuts. These delicate, oily nuts are a beautiful aspect of Italian culinary arts. They are expensive and after I saw the work that must go into retrieving them, I understand better why that is. I cannot wait to see the slender pine-wood colored nut that emerges from these stately beauties.

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Filed under 5-100, Food. Cibo.

Picture it!

Theme Day: Helpful Sigonella Transition Tips
(Uno) 1. You will fight with your spouse/family. Prepare yourself with strategies for distinguishing travel anger.

(Due) 2. The base uses USD (U.S. Dollar). You don’t have to get rid of all of your cash.

(Tre) 3. Lamps are the easiest electric item to convert – a 220 volt bulb and a simple “lego” outlet converter and you are in business.

(Quattro) 4. The weather is awesome. Um, I can acknowledge that this totally depends on your previous duty station, but I am digging the 70 degree afternoon we had the other day. Yeaaaa!

(Cinque) 5. It is super easy to order *most* “comforts” of home online. Research the ones that are super important to you and don’t worry about the rest. I try to find Italian substitutes, but when in doubt, the internet is my friend.

Cento – a la Sophia Petrillo

Picture it! Sicily, 2011. I had just moved to Sicily and everyone around me was eating ricotta this, ricotta that, even ricotta donuts. I tried the ash-crusted ricotta and loved it. I put fresh ricotta on my pizza and loved it. The honey-sweetend ricotta that filled up my cannolo was dream worthy. I knew it was good, but c’mon, I just don’t like donuts. Then, I had my first reluctant bite and the donut world as I knew it exploded. A still-warm puff of fried dough wrapped around barely sweetened rich ricotta, sugar sticking to the outer layer sticking ever-so-slightly to my fingers as I delicately maintained just enough pressure to keep the donut in my hand but not so much as to squeeze the filling out. The mix of textures and tastes combined in my mouth and I was converted. You would be, too.


Filed under 5-100, Awesomeness

Tuscany Rebooted.

Theme Day: Five Tuscan Photos with more than cento words.

I haven’t shared many of my Tuscan adventures with you yet, AND I am post-Thanksgiving gluttony relaxing, so I’m going to focus on photos for this post. Enjoy five of my favorites from our October sojourn in Tuscany.

Uno: I found this on the side of a church in the depths of Pitigliano’s old quarter.

Due: These two doors are about 5-feet tall, and stand a good six inches up off the stone roadway (single lane spacing, though no signs indicated “senso unico” (one way)). With doorways like these, the sense of history was omnipresent in Pitigliano.

Tre: Tre plant sconces all in a row. Touches like these were common in the narrow alleyways of Pitigliano.

Quattro: This wild boar was oh-so-real, and oh-so-stinky. I was checking him out while Hal ordered us some salami…it was good, and it felt one giant leap closer to the meat-making process, neat. (That sign says No Touching!)

Cinque: In Pitigliano, we finish with a short series of a narrow alleyway through the stone to the sunshine. The beautiful contrast of light against shadow was breathtaking.

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend – hope to see you in Italy next year!


Filed under 5-100

Giving thanks for Thanksgiving!


Being a favorite holiday, here are my five top o’my mind Sicilian thanks:

(Uno) 1. Arriving safely to our new home for three years, with cats in tact, family togetherness still a solid concept, and the giddiness of the adventure burbling in my soul.

(Due) 2. Getting a great job with wonderful colleagues. Let’s face it – this could be expanded to be an entire post of gratefulness, but I’ll encompass it all in this one.

(Tre) 3. Weathering the immediate-travel stress with relative ease (I’m referring to the 30+ hour adventure, from Auntie Em dropping us at the airport (and Aunt Karrie taking our leftover stuff for eventual mail drop), to the layovers, etc); to weathering the settling in stress with no memorable rough patches (I remember having them, but they were contemporaneous); to enjoying the adjustments we are still facing.

(Quattro) 4. Getting to stay in touch with SO many people who opt to check into the blog and keep in touch via email or through comments. Yay! I had hoped for such connections and they are even more precious than I could have imagined.

(Cinque) 5. It is easy to see that the NEW friends I have made through blogging are my thankful numero cinque. You all make blogging more fun than journaling, I feel community in you, and I learn from you every day. Thank you!!!

Cento – A general thankfulness

I am still feeling a bit of shock when I encounter smokers. Even at my most recent restaurant gig in Seattle, few people smoked. And I was working in a restaurant, folks – c’mon, let’s acknowledge the stereotype. I still feel surprised when I plow through clouds of smoke here, and even moreso when it is U.S. citizens smoking. I’m glad my college-years social smoking quickly faded as I became more engaged in running and yoga. The occasional cigarette and Scotch took longer to fade, but I happily enjoy a nip of Scotch all on its own, now. Thanks, self & society!

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Filed under 5-100, Awesomeness

Carabinieri (Updated!)


(Uno) 1. Sunny Sicilian November afternoons. Although I don’t have a window anywhere near my desk, the outside door is about 50 feet away and I take many an opportunity to stand up, stretch my legs and mosey on outdoors to enjoy several minutes of sunshine. Aaaaaaaah.

(Due) 2. Mmmmmm…work pot luck. Lumpia, spicy cheese dip, raspberry vinaigrette salad with feta…oh my! Plus, the Italian contributions: eggplant parmigiana (with hard-boiled egg and mortadella), and tiramisu this week. Like a room temp macchiato exploded in my mouth!

(Tre) 3. My work load is picking up. This is *mostly* fun, and my current projects are definitely interesting. I actually really love the postal system and hope it can survive the economic hurdles it is facing, so I sincerely enjoy any aspect of my job that involves postal. One new project does so, yippee!

(Quattro) 4. Running! It has been a little while since I gave you a good dose of the “natural high” I get from running. And, it will be a little while longer. Currently, I am grateful to be healthy enough to run and to feel the positive health effects (bye-bye cat allergies!).

(Cinque) 5. Adding organic Sicilian lemon juice to EVERYTHING. I’ll share a photo soon, but I just have to share this awesome addition to my life. No additives, just pure lemon juice. I put a few tablespoons in my morning green tea, we make lemon fizzy water (instead of soda), and I try it in numerous other ways.


Carabinieri. (Try saying that one time. No, don’t try saying it fast). They set up on the roadside and “give the lollipop” – by waving down random cars with that lollipop each one stores in his boot. [Note: Yes, that is the “adult” dance club, “LoveStory” parking lot we are in. This is on the road that runs in between bases – luckily it was a weekend morning and not a weekend evening.] These gentlemen were very polite, they even joked around with us by the end of the visit! A quick check against their records (???) and away we went!

(Updated! One astute reader pointed out that in my eagerness to write about the Carabinieri, I failed to notice that it was the Polizia who actually gave us the lollipop. I will bring you Carabinieri coverage ASAP. As an aside, there are roughly nine police forces in Italy.)


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Dry – witty? Dry – not sweet? Or Dry – pissed off?


(Uno) 1. Cats! Yep, I love them. And, they are funny to see in unexpected places. Check out The Kitten Covers, a great website my friend Maya recommended and have a good chuckle.

(Due) 2. Learning more Italian. “Io mi sono asciugata” – basically it means I dried myself off. Also, say it with me “a-shoo-gah-tah.”

(Tre) 3. Learning that “seccato” is also a word that means “dry” – but not in the sense of not being wet. This surprised me because the base is the same as Spanish “seco.” Italians (er, maybe Sicilians) use “seccato” for dried fruits, but otherwise it means “really pissed off” – which is not a good thing!

(Quattro) 4. More cats – in Feline Agility Competitions. How do these owners find the time?

(Cinque) 5. Finding the long lost photo of the Freeky Fries. I wanted to include these photos yesterday, but they were lost in the magical, mystical media library of this blog. Now they are found. Italian junk food continues!

These were gross, by the way. Ewww!


If you haven’t figured out that I’m sort of into feeling grateful, or at least looking for the sunny side of the street, and lemonade, and cool patterns rain makes on my glasses (puh-lease, that one is actually SO annoying). The U.S. Thanksgiving holiday is among my favorites! Heck, I’ll celebrate Canada’s Thanksgiving, too, given the opportunity and any other opportunity to share community thankfulness. I am counting my blessings, so to speak, and let me tell you, given the right perspective, blessings are infinite. Perspective is everything, as this gentleman so adeptly illustrates as he describes his “American Dream.”


Filed under 5-100, Kitties



Here are a few pieces of this and that. Photos of items that just didn’t fit into other posts, so far, and heck, why not put them into a post together. A collection of visual sundries for your Monday. I’m putting in Cinque photographic categories and the Cento is in the accompanying text. Ciao tutti!

(Uno) 1. Lava Rocks and Pumice from Lipari (Isole Eolie). There is a pumice factory on Lipari; the factory is sitting unused and empty. A tour guide told us that there is a legal dispute about what the owner will do with the land upon which the factory sits.

(Due) 2. The Italian junk food – so similar to U.S. junk food, but significantly fewer varieties are available.

(Tre) 3. Mmmmmmm, dry Sicilian cookies – the perfect accompaniment to a cup of hot tea or coffee.

(Quattro) 4. Gotta give this one up to Uncle Michael – thanks for the recommendation and gift. The best hand cream!

(Cinque) 5. Frankenstein & Batman investigate Sicilian fruit purchases, teeny tiny crab apple and unseasonal plum.


Filed under 5-100