Monthly Archives: December 2011

New Year’s Eve is upon us


(Uno) 1. Seeking inspiration? Check out Six Word Story.

(Due) 2. Wrote a letter to Jasminka, my Women-for-Women International Sister who lives in Bosnia. WfW is an amazing organization that creates empowering workshops for women in war-torn countries. There are many ways of supporting the organization, and I chose to sponsor one sister for a one-year training program. I can write letters to her, receive letters and feel that I am making a positive impact in someone’s life rather than donating to a bottomless pit of charity. Jasminka will graduate at the end of February 2011.

(Tre) 3. Delicious breakfast sandwich, egg and arugula, prepared by my brother! Yay. He is earning his keep.

(Quattro) 4. Killer brownies made by my mom, carried to Italy by my brother and ingested by me. Only crumbs survived once I saw these caramel-rich bites of home – sorry no photos!

(Cinque) 5. Macaroni and cheese that will change your life, via my friend Steph’s recommendation. She was so RIGHT! Yummy. Pictures via Dave, thanks Dave. This was what we ate for dinner last night. I helped by shredding all of the cheese while wearing my new apron – Mom sewed it for me for Christmas!

Kiss the Cook!


A healthy mouth without industrial toothpaste? Organic Authority claims it can be done. I am always looking for ways to eliminate contact with unnecessary (and unknown) chemicals. Years ago I switched to baking soda based toothpaste (Arm & Hammer) because I thought it would have fewer chemicals. I got Dave hooked on this brand, and now it’s all we use. Unfortunately, my impressions were wrong – and my lips feel tight and irritated after I brush. I am going to start experimenting with with the essential oil and baking soda combination, and the sea salt rinse, recommended above. Here’s to dental health!

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Speaking of bellwethers…



Did you notice the bellwether reference in yesterday’s post? Either way, I am writing of bellwethers today. I knew “bellwether” as an indicator of a rising trend. “Bellwether” began as a “wether” (lead male sheep), sporting a bell (not by choice, the damn shepherd put it on him). While the goats being shepherded around Sigonella are not sheep, the lead male is still a bellwether, are ya with me? Great. The gentle ding-dong of the bell inevitably brings a smile to my face and the accompanying shepherds return my smiles, which makes goat crossings a welcome delay to my commute.



December (The base housing at Marinai shows in the background)



(Uno) 1. The article sharing continues (gathered from Word Press’s “Freshly Pressed” collection):
11 Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming A Special Needs Parent,
Iraq: What I remember (Excellent read & photos!), and
Five Ways to Find Your Future.


(Due) 2. Coconut oil! Our neighbor Warren recommended coconut oil for cooking and I am interested in trying it out. I found this Runners World forum with comments. Have any of you cooked with coconut oil? Any recommendations or comments?


(Tre) 3. Skype. Got the chance to bring six family members together on four computers across three continents for two hours of conversation.


(Quattro) 4. Making the final payment on an outstanding bill! After a few years of interest free payments, we made the final payment on our furniture. Yippee. “All these little victories…”


(Cinque) 5. Kitty cats! This picture of Maki might help the doubters out there understand just why I would do anything for this guy (like midnight surgery in December 2010). Personality + fluffy goodness +  Hammer pants =  so much love.


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Book Review: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this book”): The book club I raved about chose this book for our November book club meeting.


The book starts off with a tantalizing Prologue that introduces the main characters of the book, Marion and Shiva (twin brothers), Addis Ababa (capital city of Ethiopia where most of the story takes place), Missing Hospital, Sister Mary Joseph Praise (twins’ mother), Dr. Ghosh (father to the twins), and Dr. Thomas Stone (biological father). Other major characters factor into the life of Marion, whose life we follow, including Hema, and Genet, but we meet them later in the story. Dr. Abraham Verghese is a theatrical writer and leaves several hints and clues in his prologue.

However sly Dr. Verghese is, a prologue is known for providing some essential information for the reading of the book. This holds true for the prologue here, and more importantly, it offers the mystery. If you do not grab ahold of this mystery, you may not make it to the meat of the book, which reaches prime juiciness around page 250. While there are moments in the first 250 pages that pulled me along, I cannot say I was committed to finishing the book until about page 250. Well, I committed to finishing the book for book club, but without that I may have abandoned the book. The book is too good to abandon, but it did betray me at page 485. Yes, it was such a deep betrayal that I noted the page and cursed Dr. Verghese.

Why, you might ask, did I feel so personally betrayed? Mostly because Dr. Verghese pulled me along with the hope of strong female characters so lacking in much of literature (and yes, please leave book titles in the comments that have strong female characters). As I was saying, he pulled me along with this promise. While there are strong female characters in the book, they are limited to peripheral roles. Even Hema, who mothers Marion, got a great introduction, we really get a sense of how she thinks, her familial history, and who she is – and then POOF! She is reduced to a mere figurehead who, while offering great influence in Marion’s life, no longer gets page time of her own development. That was disappointing, but not the cause of the betrayal. I will let you read the betrayal yourself, and will close this topic by saying it underscored Marion’s disdain for all females, a trait Dr. Verghese cleverly disguises but which is simmering below the surface throughout the book. Or is it Dr. Verghese’s disdain seeping into his character? Is it his commentary on society? On Marion? Why did he choose this act for Marion’s zenith? It is impossible for me to say.

The delightful part of reading Dr. Verghese’s well-crafted story is in the details. He sets the story in revolutionary Ethiopia, highlights the Italian influences on Addis Ababa left over from Italy’s occupation, describes numerous diseases and medical procedures, and thoughtfully sets up questions of philosophy and morality upon these backdrops. With the mystery of Marion’s parents’s lives leading us by the nose throughout the book, we have ample opportunity to search our own souls on questions of what family means, what role family plays in personal development and career choice, and how much of ourselves is inherent in our genetics and how much is learned and chosen. These questions play out over a dramatic story of a place that is a fantasy. The fantasy is in the foreignness, for westerners like me who haven’t traveled in Africa. The fantasy is in the selective application of timing of historical events for those who lived through them. Dr. Verghese admits to this free use of history and he applies it well to the dramatic development of the storyline.

The excerpts below show the deep thinking of Dr. Verghese’s characters in “Cutting for Stone.” It was a book that presented many difficulties which were well matched with highlights and rewards for working through the difficulties. While my sense of betrayal keeps me from embracing this book wholeheartedly, I feel quite comfortable recommending it to anyone who is looking for an escape from everyday life, looking to step into another time and place and imagine how your choices would play out in these circumstances, or looking for a thought-provoking book with a well developed story and lovable characters in a foreign land.

Best Excerpts:

“We come unbidden into this life, and if we are lucky we find a purpose beyond starvation, misery, and early death which, lest we forget, is the common lot.”
p. 6

“No, not Bach’s ‘Gloria.’ Yours! Your ‘Gloria’ lives within you. The greatest sin is not finding it, ignoring what God made possible for you.”
p. 6

“But of all the qualities of the women he met in Addis, the most important was their acquiescence, their availability. For months after his arrival in Addis, well after his discovery of the Ibis and so many other bars like it, Ghosh was celibate. The irony of that period was that the one woman he wanted rejected his advances, while all around him were women who never said no. He was twenty-four and not totally inexperienced when he arrived in Ethiopia. The only intimacy he’d ever had in India was with a young probationer by the name of Virgin Magdalene Kumar. Shortly after their three-month affair ended, she left her order and married a chap he knew (and presumably changed her name to Magdalene Kumar).

“Hema, I am only human,” he murmured now as he did every time he thought he was being unfaithful to her.

p. 126


“The following night, we couldn’t wait to talk about Abu Kassem. We all saw it the same way. The old man was right. The slippers in the stry mean that everything you see and do and touch, every seed you sow or don’t sow, becomes part of your destiny…I met Hema in the septic ward at Government General Hospital in India, in Madras, and that brought me to this continent. Because of that, I got the biggest gift of my life–to be a father to you two. Because of that, I operated on General Mebratu, who became my friend. Because he was my friend, I went to prison. Because I was a doctor, I helped to save him, and they let me out. Because I saved him, they could hang him…You see what I am saying?”

I didn’t, but he spoke with such passion I wasn’t about to stop him.

“I never knew my father, and so I thought he was irrelevant to me. My sister felt his absence so strongly that it made her sour, and no no matter what she has, or will ever have, it won’t be enough.” He sighed. “I made up for his absence by hoarding knowledge, skills, seeking praise. What I finally understood in Kerchele is that neither my sister nor I realized that my father’s absence is our slippers. In order to start to get rid of your slippers, you have to admit they are yours, and if you do, then they will get rid of themselves.”

All these years and I hadn’t known this about Ghosh, about his father dying when he was young. He was like us, fatherless, but at least we had him. Perhaps he’d been worse off than we were.

Ghosh sighed. “I hope one day you see this as clearly as I did in Kerchele. The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

p. 286.


“The black-suited drivers led their passengers to sleek black cars, but my man led me to a big yeloow taxi. In no time we were driving out of Kennedy Airport, heading to the Bronx. We merged at what I thought was dangerous speed onto a freeway and into the slipstream of racing vehicles. “Marion, jet travel has damaged your eardrums,” I said to myself, because the silence was unreal. In Africa, cars ran not on petrol but on the squawk and blare of their horns. Not so here: the cars were near silent, like a school of fish. All I heard was the whish of rubber on concrete or asphalt.

Superorganism. A biologist coined that word for our giant African ant colonies, claiming that consciousness and intelligence resided not in the individual ant but in the collective ant mind. The trail of red taillights stretching to the horizon as day broke around us made me think of that term. Order and purpose must reside somewhere other than within each vehicle. That morning I heard the hum, the respiration, of the superorganism. It’s a sound I believe that only the new immigrant hears, but not for long. By the time I learned to say “Six-inch number seven on rye with Swiss hold the lettuce,” the sound, too, was gone. It became part of what the mind would label silence. You were now subsumed into the superorganism.”

p. 379


“I took my own deep breath. I sat on the edge of his bed. I held his hand. “Mr. Walters, I’m afraid I have some bad news. We found something unexpected in your belly.” This was the first time in America that I had to give someone news of a fatal illness, but it felt like the first time ever. It was as if in Ethiopia, and even in Nairobi, people assumed that all illness–even a trivial or imagined one–was fatal; they expected death. The news to convey in Africa was that you’d kept death at bay. Those things that you couldn’t do, and those diseases you couldn’t reverse, were left unspoken. It was understood. I don’t recall an equivalent word for “prognosis” in Amharic, and I’d never tried to speak to a patient about five-year survival or anything like that. In America, my initial impression was that death or the possibility of it always seemed to come as a surprise, as if we took it for granted that we were immortal, and that death was just an option.”

p. 396


ISBN: 0375414495

Book website:

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I make my own opinions and you can, too.



Do you hate it when people go around telling you all of their opinions on everything from A to Z? Me, too. That’s why I pour many of my opinions into this blog – to save my colleagues, friends and family from days like today when I have an opinion on everything under the sun (***you, on the other hand, signed up for this blog; for your comfort, I put this warning upfront today). Maybe it is the caffeine buzz from two cups of strong coffee, maybe it is chatting and catching up with my brother, maybe it is barometric pressure changes – all I know is my mind alit on these articles from my inbox, facebook feed, and blogging community. Enjoy!

Uno (1). Taming Bad Financial Instincts. This is a post from “Daily Worth” – an email newsletter geared to professional women’s financial needs. Sometimes I am nowhere near the earning range of the newsletter topic, other times the advice is right on the spot. Today’s advice to automatically reroute money from a checking account to a less accessible savings account is spot on. I love this idea! Check out the hyperbolic-discounting explanation, too.

Due (2). Scott Colom: Advice for Chief McQueen. The eternal philosophical debate of how to reduce crime! A classmate of mine waxes philosophical about values in telling his story of recent burglary. He offers a lot of good suggestions for making safer communities, but I got stuck on his calculation of “better parents + better schools = safer community” – I think it ignores too many other factors. (I also think it is punny that Mr. Colom writes a column!!! har, har, har).

Tre (3). Feel Free to Ignore Iowa. Via my brother, Gail Collins yuks it up at the expense of the Iowa Caucuses. She is so right! For many years I have been wondering why so many people care what a bunch of Iowans thinks. Like Ms. Collins, I love Iowa and some Iowans, just don’t think they are the end-all-be-all of political bellwethers.

Quattro (4). Changing Time. Steve H. Hanke and Richard Conn Henry via the CATO Institute propose following Universal Time and adopting a new calendar with standardized quarters and an extra week every five to six years. It was fun and mind-bendy to imagine such a change, and I guess it would mean new and different ways of considering time. Yet, it feels like change for the sake of change, so I am not supporting the proposal (as if they asked).

Cinque (5). Funny Cats. Paul over at Paul’s Blog liked a post of mine so I wandered over to his blog and found a funny cat video that Dave actually showed me a few nights ago – How to Wrap A Cat for Christmas (third in his list of videos). It is hilarious and so worth a watch that I posted it below to make it super easy for you. Check out Paul’s post for other funnies.


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Book Review: A House in Sicily, by Daphne Phelps

Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this book”):
I am sure I came across this book while perusing blogs about Italy, however dear reader, I have had this book since early September and I can no longer remember how I found it. Suffice it to say, it is about a house in Taormina, which is just north of Catania (where I live) and that was interesting enough to attract me.

Ms. Daphne Phelps tells us her provocative story in an antiseptic manner. She hints at daring adventures and dishes on the sordid affairs of her friends, but Ms. Phelps never reveals any of her own tawdry tales. Nevertheless, if you are at the beginning of a romance with Sicily the way I was, you can fall in love with Ms. Phelps’ Sicily. She takes us to Motta, where I was living when I read the book, she introduces us to puppeteers (world famous!) and she shares her own unexpected love story – falling in love with a culture, a house and a new world.

The prose of her book suggests that Ms. Phelps was a no-nonsense type of woman. What humor is to be found is extremely dry, though she produced a surprising chuckle or two from me when I picked up on the wit behind her sardonic text. Do not expect an emotional journey in this book; instead, it reads as travel book might – plenty of specific details in some areas, and leaving others completely unexplained. Overall, I loved this book, because I enjoyed imagining my upcoming adventures through Ms. Phelps’ experience. My heart is enamored with Sicily for now. Time will tell if I fall as deeply in love with the island as Ms. Phelps did.

Best Excerpts:

“Once I was lunching with Piero in the hotel at Gela when a waiter told me there was a man wanting to speak to me. He was not asking for me by name. This seemed odd. Did he not know me? After lunch he came forward carrying a parcel wrapped in newspaper. He said it was a Greek vase. Would I like to buy it? Piero was just behind me so, although full of curiosity, I virtuously said no. Piero, who had the right to confiscate immediately any contraband, stepped forward saying he was interested. Strangely the man didn’t know who he was; it seemed odd that he had not taken the trouble to learn the identity of the only two men with the right to confiscate. Encouraged, the would-be seller opened the parcel. He wanted 12,000 lire for what looked to my unskilled eyes to be a black, two-handled crater in perfect condition. Piero carefully examined it, turning it over and over, then finally said he wasn’t interested. Diappointed, the man wrapped it up and went off.
‘Whatever was all that in aid of? What is it?’
‘A black crater.’
‘Then why didn’t you confiscate it?’
‘We already have three others like it. If we confiscated everything we are shown, we should have no friends among the peasants. We want them to bring us their finds instead of going straight to the Mafia.’
It seemed reasonable, but I would have liked to buy that vase.

p. 148


“One beautiful morning we started down the rocky path to the beach where a fair was held each month. We soon overtook an old couple leading a sheep and two lambs. In pure Sicilian, which I couldn’t follow, and with a great deal of shouting and waving of hands and arms, a bargain price was fixed. I suggested therefore that there was no need to take the poor animal all the way to the beach when he would have to be dragged up the hill again. The old man thought it was a good idea, but his wife, evidently the manager, was against, so we all continued down.

While we looked around at the crowded and gay scene with peasants, horses, pigs, sheep and, alas, songbirds in cages, Turiddu [Ms. Phelps’ Sicilian companion] kept an eye on his lamb. Soon we saw him advance angrily on the old woman. She was sitting bolt upright on the sand with her legs stretched out in front of her, a kerchief on her head to keep off the hot spring sunshine, munching away on a piece of bread and pretending to be not the least interested in Turiddu. Obviously she had insisted on the whole troupe coming down because she had hoped to find a more generous purchaser. She continued munching steadily, feigning deafness as his voice rose highter and his gestures became fiercer. But suddenly she gave up and took the notes he was waving, with ever-increasing fury, in front of her nose. ‘Martino’ was ours at the price first fixed.

He was a splendid animal and surprisingly clean; he had clearly been laundered before his sale.

“Turiddu, why Martino?”

He looked at my pityingly for my ignorance: ‘All lambs are called Martino.’

p. 130-131

ISBN: 0786707941

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“What will this day be like? I wonder.”


(Uno) 1. Rocking out four miles this morning! I am still bringing my lungs back into shape, so it was a rough four miles, but I made it. It is surprising the degree to which my lung capacity affects my performance. My muscles were capable, my lungs were the limiting factor.

(Due) 2. Picking up Jimmy from the airport!!! He traveled thousands of miles and he’s here. Shhh…keep it down out there, he’s sleeping now.

(Tre) 3. Speaking of sleeping, I’ve got one Mr. Maki-bear snuggled up next to me on the couch. Those of you who know his alter-ego “Surly Bastard” might be shocked to hear that the big puff ball could snuggle, but it is true. So precious.

(Quattro) 4. Finishing up my Christmas movie marathon with The Sound of Music on while I blog. Um, no, I am not blogging for three hours, though.

(Cinque) 5. Looking at the beautiful cannoli in the Catania airport. We didn’t buy any this time, and (snobbery alert) I prefer the freshly stuffed cannolo; these are lined with chocolate before the ricotta filling is inserted. The chocolate lining successfully prevents the baked shell from getting soggy, yet it is less flaky and delicate than a freshly stuffed cannolo (cannolo = singular, cannoli = plural). These cannoli sure are pretty though!


Today I leave you with the lyrics of a favorite Sound of Music song. As a youngster, I disliked this song and just wanted to get to the next scene. I was usually watching the movie on televisions before the days of dvrs. Thus, I fortunately was forced to endure the song. It’s wisdom has steadied me while stepping into the unknown. I dedicate this song to everyone who takes a step into discomfort, who risks the unknown to meet your loved one in a foreign land, who believes in themselves enough to show the world your best! Ciao, bella.

“I Have Confidence”

What will this day be like? I wonder.
What will my future be? I wonder.
It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free
My heart should be wildly rejoicing
Oh, what’s the matter with me?

I’ve always longed for adventure
To do the things I’ve never dared
And here I’m facing adventure
Then why am I so scared

A captain with seven children
What’s so fearsome about that?

Oh, I must stop these doubts, all these worries
If I don’t I just know I’ll turn back
I must dream of the things I am seeking
I am seeking the courage I lack

The courage to serve them with reliance
Face my mistakes without defiance
Show them I’m worthy
And while I show them
I’ll show me

So, let them bring on all their problems
I’ll do better than my best
I have confidence they’ll put me to the test
But I’ll make them see I have confidence in me

Somehow I will impress them
I will be firm but kind
And all those children (Heaven bless them!)
They will look up to me

And mind me with each step I am more certain
Everything will turn out fine
I have confidence the world can all be mine
They’ll have to agree I have confidence in me

I have confidence in sunshine
I have confidence in rain
I have confidence that spring will come again
Besides which you see I have confidence in me

Strength doesn’t lie in numbers
Strength doesn’t lie in wealth
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers
When you wake up — Wake Up!

It tells me all I trust I lead my heart to
All I trust becomes my own
I have confidence in confidence alone
(Oh help!)

I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have confidence in me!


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Book Review: Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley

Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this book”): To be honest, the cover represented a nice, relaxing book to read by the pool, and that is what attracted me to the book. I choose the book as a “light read” in between other “serious” books. What a joke! Ms. Smiley writes complex characters with heavy dialogue and heady interactions. The thick chapters and weighty topics were not burdensome when paired with Smiley’s enticing characters.


Friends and family spontaneously gather at the home of a fading Hollywood director. He and his live-in girlfriend host children, grandparents and long-time friends over the course of ten days. During that time, the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq begins and this event anchors many conversations in the rambling house in the hills. An opportunity to change locations (yet still stay in the hills) affords the group new material for the continuous bickering, debating and laughing routines they have established among themselves.

As a whole, I found this book to be challenging and thought-provoking. Jane Smiley is clearly an intelligent and gifted writer and she portrays compelling characters that exude stereotype without becoming cliche. Just when I thought I had deduced Smiley’s pattern, she would insert a twist or provide an inspiring moment to distract me from my predictions.

While the book pulled me along, I cannot bring myself to recommend it strongly nor to recommend you avoid it. I had the chance to dig into this book for three hours the first time I started reading it and I think that helped me enjoy it more. I created a strong visual space for each of the characters and I was able to follow the subtle character development that Smiley showed over ten days. My emotions were aroused as I read and at times when I was bored with a character, rather than being bored with the book, I still felt more alive for the time I spent reading. While I can’t say that I will revisit this book, I am interested in reading more of Smiley’s work.

Best Excerpts:
“You know that there are people whose job it is to know more about this than you do and that they think this is a regrettable necessity, right?”
“I’ve heard that rumor, but I question their motives. If their motives are humane, I question their logic. If their logic is reasonable, I question their worldview and their right to impose their worldview on the lives and bodies of others.”
“Then, honey, you question the nature of civilization.”
“And you don’t?”
p. 24-25

“Cars were wonderful philosophical things, zones of privacy and occasions for cooperation. There was something especially fine, she thought, in world-historical terms, about a car belonging to a stranger whom you had never seen before moving into the left lane in order to allow you onto the freeway. There was something politically beautiful about four cars at a four-way intersection smoothly taking their turns. Good traffic made you a benevolent person and a believer in basic human goodness.”
p. 112

“”But you asked me why I still care. It was the agressive, open gloating. It was more than a lack of shame. Not only were we supposed to acknowledge that they had the power, we were supposed to admire the idea of cheating as a method of attaining power. They preened themselves upon being corrupt and morally bankrupt. If he had gone to his inauguration and said, ‘I know I cheated, and I know most of you didn’t elect me, and I know I am indifferent to all issues of right and wrong as they apply to me personally, but I’m here and I plan to make the most of it.’ I wouldn’t be so angry.”
Max laughed. The fact was, there was an element of delight that he felt about everything she said. But he tried to speak seriously: “I always think it’s funny that the main thing you want is for them to see themselves as you see them, when that’s exactly the very thing that they can’t do. Honey, you’re never going to get that from anyone. It doesn’t matter who they are, they get to have the one thing, their own point of view.””
p. 171-172

“In that moment, Paul decided once again that family life was, in general, something to be avoided, except as an occasion for exercising patience.”
p. 306

“Max drew in a deep and, to Stoney, threatening breath, and said, “Stoney, are you telling me the truth?”
Stoney sat silent for what he considered to be a long moment, pondering this question. Questions about the truth worried him, because of course he didn’t know what the truth was. His own true feelings were always confused, he had no access to any general truths, and if you said you were telling the truth, you laid yourself open to all sorts of contradictions that would ultimately confuse you even further. Whenever “the truth” came up, it was often as a prelude to a lengthy and usually contentious discussion.”
p. 336

“She had dived into the deep end, where the virgin’s hair swirled into the tail of the unicorn, and in the middle of her second lap had realized that in fact she was precisely different from the person her father thought she was by the measure of Stoney’s influence. It was scientific. Here would be Max’s wish, that a young man and she would be equally idealistic and optimistic, and they would be just self-centered enough so that they would set out confidently to save the world, or some part of it, African felines or babies suffering from malnutrition and dehydration, and they would work out a plan and start a family, no knowing any better, and their life would become a fait accompli before they realized how hard it was, and then, after they realized that, they would do as everyone else does, wake up from their idealism and go on to achieve what they could.”
p. 433.

ISBN: 978-1-4000-3320-1

Book website: Jane Smiley’s website.

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Pull the plug


(Uno) 1. Feeling oh-so-drained when the alarm clock rang at 5:30am…(and grinning at all the fun I had sleeping in this weekend). It was such a treat to sleep until the sun poked through the window.

(Due) 2. Breathing free and clear! While I love my cats and loved being home with Dave, it was a relief to breath non-cat-dander air all day today. My lungs are thanking me.

(Tre) 3. Carlos. An epic docudrama that tells the fictionalized story of ‘Carlos’ using historical journalism to portray the truth. The title character is Carlos, nee Ilich Ramírez Sánchez. He is a anti-capitalist, pro-Palestine revolutionary. Er, that is what he was. Then, after that fell through, he was an entrepreneurial criminal with capitalist desires. Now, he is an imprisoned convict (in France). Don’t worry, the story is still good even if you know these facts. It was a televised mini-series in France, but we watched it as a long dvd.

(Quattro) 4. Finally feeling like we know our neighborhood. There was a detour about 2 blocks from our driveway and without any panic, I immediately knew two alternate routes for getting home. Of course, they both took us through the same detour, but at least the other end wasn’t blocked by a bulldozer across the road.

(Cinque) 5. Reminiscing on this neat sculpture, honoring those who died at sea. We found it in Stazzo during our Christmas Eve stroll.
“In onore
Dei Caduti
Del Mare”


Nothing says “Welcome Back to Work!” like a mind-numbing online training. Today, I dove headfirst into one such required trainings on AntiTerrorism (Carlos-inspired choice). Y’know what I learned? When an “active shooter” arrives, crouch low to the ground. Do NOT lay on the ground. Why? Ricocheting bullets hover down there. Now don’t go thinking you can apply that rule willy-nilly. When grenades are flying, lay on the ground! Shrapnel flows upwards. Keep your feet near the attacker, to protect your head and all. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don’t thank me now, wait ’til this wisdom saves your life; thank me then.

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Melting hearts


(Uno) 1. Skyping with our families back in the states. Yay Skype! Skype provides a clear connection on the phone and the chance to see the adorableness of our nieces and nephew, along with siblings and Dave’s father, of course! We missed seeing Auntie Kathy – where were you?

(Due) 2. Packer victory! As I’ve mentioned, I am always loyal to the Packers, though I don’t follow the game-to-game action. This suits me well overseas, but I like to see a game now and then. I tried to stay up for the 2am start last night, but didn’t make it. Woke up to a win though – whoo hoo!

(Tre) 3. Cleaning house for Jimmy’s visit! Yay brother!

(Quattro) 4. Installing a Christmas gift from my Mom and Dad – thanks! Uhhhh…this thing has more instructions than our new bed frame. It has an alarm clock, a temperature alert, and it scans for alien activities. Well, I guess when electronics are so advanced it’s easier to fit so much into a small package.

(Cinque) 5. “Nothing’s going on here, and I love it.” It was a great relaxing weekend, capped off with some couch lounging, terrible movie watching (quote is from this movie, when Salma Hayek says it, it sounds better), and husband canoodling.


The Cinquecento Project got a face lift and more changes are in store. The project has focused on my positive life adjustments in Sicily. Daily posts provided an outlet for my musings and photo galleries, some days feature natural gems, others show rocks I have polished to be as pretty as possible. Saturday, I walked along the sea savoring the salty air, the crisp wind, the mountain at my back, and the sun shining down on me. Yet, no matter the physical settings of my life, the scenery can never compare with the sense of home that comes from within.


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White Mt. Etna Christmas


Merry Christmas to all!

(Uno) 1. My christmas movies Home Alone, Love Actually, White Christmas, StepMom, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and The Sound of Music. I have watched half of them and will finish up the other half between this morning and tonight.

(Due) 2. Christmas cooking! Dave found a great recipe for eggplant macaroni and spent an afternoon making the sauce. Today he’ll finish the pasta and veggies and we’ll be ready to travel to our christmas dinner.

(Tre) 3. Driving down to the sea and going for a cozy walk in the Sicilian sunshine. The crisp and salty air was invigorating!

(Quattro) 4. Paging through The Twelve Days of Christmas in Wisconsin, and nodding along with the items included…until I give the book the side eye at “seven planes a-swooping” – but overall it is a great book and a lovely way to remember Wisconsin at christmastime.

(Cinque) 5. Creating new holiday traditions. Dave and I have a few traditions so far, but none for Christmas. This year, we took a goofy picture with the cats and walked down to the Christmas Eve bonfire at our neighborhood church. It felt like as good of a start as any.

White Christmas, White Christmas! This movie was a childhood favorite of mine, all songs that sing of a White Christmas made me a giddy little girl who couldn’t wait to bundle up and play in the snow, every year I would hope for a healthy snowfall on Christmas Eve, to set off the twinkling lights with delicate white flakes. This year, Mt. Etna provided a White Christmas with a spectacular snow covering in recent days, along with abundant sunshine to offer a million different gorgeous views. May you be enjoying your version of a White Christmas, wherever you are, Cheers!

The first morning shot from our living room terrace.

Then a peek-a-boo shot as we were driving to the sea.

Then, I hopped up on the fence for a barrier-free vista. A gentleman out for a fun also stopped and took a break at this spot. The view was breath-taking.

Finally, an example of the beautiful glimpses Mt. Etna offered all day long, peeking through the nooks and crannies of the landscape, popping up just when the sea had taken your eye’s attention.


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