Monthly Archives: April 2012

That’s what the water gave me.

You know, the typical Monday night, shopping online for a new bathing suit.

I’m listening to Florence & The Machine (lots of water themes) to get in the summer-fun-Jill mood, starting with “Water Gave Me.”

When all of a sudden…this interesting image comes up in the Amazon search:

Click here.

Just trust me and click the link. You won’t be sorry. You will be happy that you started your week with this image in your mind.

Happy Monday!


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Well, Panther finally climbed on the roof…

And he was pretty happy with himself all evening,,,


Dave couldn’t help laughing.


The sun was shining on us so strongly that I had to shed layers this evening. Twilight has settled in and the mountain is saying goodnight to the sea.


“Good night Neverneverland!”

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Mt. Etna Eruption News Coverage

We made MSNBC!

Apparently, Mt. Etna has erupted SEVEN times this year. That’s in addition to the handful of times she blew in 2011…and we’re lucky enough to be here to see it.

Click here for a beautiful view of the hot lava spewing forth from the earth.

The morning after the eruption MSNBC reported on, I was wandering out of the bedroom in my early morning haze. The sound of Maki meowing leads me to his location, and our ritual includes a quick morning snuggle as I gaze out at the world. That morning, the sun was just coming up behind the house, from the Ionian Sea. Rays of light were illuminating the mountain, making it look like it was glowing. Immediately, I could see the lava flow emitting a glow of its own as it settled into the business of burning down to black ash and dust.

Luckily the winds carried the ash away from our terrace, though we haven’t always been so lucky…(ah, I love a split infinitive at the end of a long day).



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Cinquecento-of for Nick Kristof

My longtime admiration for Nick Kristof is often equal to the concern and doubt I have about the ways he deftly infiltrates mainstream media with a tantalizing array of social media tweaks. He is as savvy as they come, and he can post a headline that draws crowds. Overall, I developed a trust of his journalism, even during the times when I am skeptical about his methods – something along the lines of stepping too close to the bait-and-switch tactics used by all the infotainment channels (Fox, MSNBC, CNN). Yet, even when a headline sensationalizes an issue, Kristof always has oodles of worthwhile content and research to back up his humanitarian arguments. He is not fighting to promote profit-seekers, he is fighting to enrich our world.

Join me in wishing him a Happy Birthday – along with Sree Sreenivasan. If you click on Sree’s name, you will gain access to an article that gives directions for celebrating Kristof on Twitter and Facebook. Or, you could buy the book Kristof wrote with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn about the plight of women around the world to eke out a dignified existence, “Half the Sky.”

If none of this information excited you, maybe you’ll like Kristof because he hails from rural Oregon, or that he loves his family to a goofy extent and includes anecdotes about his kids, or finally, that he is exposing the sex trade within U.S. borders. Drat, I’m dragging you back to his op-ed content. Here’s his info page, check him out…


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Sometimes Life is Hard, or so says KT Tunstall

“Heal Over” KT Tunstall

It isn’t very difficult to see
you are the way you are

Doesn’t take a genius
to realize
that sometimes life is hard

It’s gonna take time
But you just have to

You’re gonna be fine
But in meantime

I’m over here, lady
Let me wipe your tears, away
Come a little nearer, baby
Cuz you’ll heal over
Heal over
Heal over some day

I don’t wanna hear you tell yourself
that these feelings are in the past
you know it doesn’t mean they’re off the shelf
because pain is built to last

Everybody sails alone
Oh, but,
We can travel
Side by Side

Even if you F-A-I-L
You know
That no-one really

I’m over here, lady
Let me wipe your tears, away
Come a little nearer, baby
Cuz you’ll heal over
Heal over
Heal over some day

No don’t hold on
But don’t let go
I know it’s so Hard

You’ve got to try
To trust Yourself
I know it’s so Hard
So Hard, yea-ah

I’m over here, lady
Let me wipe your tears, away
Come a little nearer, baby
Cuz you’ll heal over
Heal over
Heal over some day

Yah, you’re gonna heal over…

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Turkish Blue Steel

Our Istanbul group at dinner, putting on our best Blue Steel faces.


Er, I should say HALF of us giving props to Zoolander!

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Why Do They Hate Us?

After my recent trip to Istanbul, Turkey, I have been thinking quite a bit about the dramatic cultural differences that I observed there. Most of the experiences that stand out in my mind revolve around the interaction between men and women.

In preparation for my trip, I read “Culture Shock! Istanbul” The book was full of opinionated and dated material, and it presented Turks from a more intimate and personal place than I would find myself as a tourist. Still, I gleaned as best I could and prepared myself to play the respectful tourist. My aim was to be present, to observe and record, and to have a fun time (honesty check!).

My airport arrival, visa transaction, and trip into the city were all commonplace and I was lost in the experience of attempting to pronounce “teşekkür ederiz” correctly. When I arrived in the neighborhood of our beautiful airbnb reservation, I started to notice many tidbits from the culture book come alive.

First, a woman in a third-floor apartment was raising a basket she had lowered for a delivery – CHECK! That was described in the book. (P.s. I also saw this happening in Sicily during my 2005 visit to Palermo. Some things Just.Make.Sense…)

Second, the driver was clearly lost, but did not speak to me or any of the other women in the neighborhood. Che-ck? Wait a second! Was this a global gender stereotype or was the male-female barrier dissuading him? He had met my eyes in the rearview mirror a few times, but otherwise completely avoided me. I am prone to giving the benefit of the doubt, so I was still unsure if I could affirm the author’s point of view on gender relations. Of the people standing around watching him slowly drive (and undoubtedly sending someone to alert my “landlord”), the driver spoke to young boys of 8 or 9 years rather than the adult women. That struck me as quite odd. It made sense he might not approach me for help, seeing as how I was so obviously a tourist, yet, how would he know I hadn’t been there before? Or if I could call someone to meet me? He never asked.

Third, the “landlord” who facilitated the airbnb avoided any physical contact with me. CHECK! The culture book’s author had taken great lengths to laud Istanbul’s broad Westernization blended with upkeep of antiquated cultural practices. The young man who arrived to save the driver delivering me to the airbnb startled me with his charming smile, polished English, cheerful interaction with the driver, and complete avoidance of my hand or eyes.

I was poised to be a respectful observer, and felt no need to impose my cultural or personal viewpoint upon him. Does that sound defensive? It does to me, too. Yes, okay, I admit it, in that moment, I deeply wanted to step ever closer to this man with my outstretched hand and see if he would actually back up as I got near him. My instincts to do so were easily subdued as I shifted gears to my completely Western companions and their litany of other gender based relational oddities during my wonderful days in Istanbul.

Yet, as I have recounted these initial impressions, and as I have reflected on my interaction with the world at large, I find a strong intolerance in myself for such socialized disdain for the opposite gender. My opinion of Istanbul is not tainted by these interactions and I had many more wonderful experiences where gender was not an issue, nor a barrier, nor a second thought in my mind. Furthermore, I do not pretend to suggest that all people who practice the cultural norm of avoiding physical contact with unknowns of the opposite gender are acting on the basis of hatred.

Nevertheless, I believe that those who began such traditions were within steps of hatred, if not eating and breathing it daily.

Author MONA ELTAHAWY steps into conversation with her opinions on gender relations in the Middle East. It may be my idealism, my lifetime of experiencing quiet and overt sexism, or my current experience that lead me to cheer her on as I read this article. Why Do They Hate Us? asks the reader to consider a wide array of perspectives presented for the justification of gender divisive rules and laws. Eltahawy dismisses all such justifications in favor of the fight for basic acceptance as an equal member of society, with an equal share of power and self-determination. I am still learning about different cultures, and I may not fully understand the fight, but her words are words I can get behind without hesitation.

I leave you with the words of Ms. Eltahawy, who does not claim to speak “for” (on behalf of) all women, but I would argue she speaks “for” (in favor of) all women.

First we stop pretending. Call out the hate for what it is. Resist cultural relativism and know that even in countries undergoing revolutions and uprisings, women will remain the cheapest bargaining chips. You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our “culture” and “religion” to do X, Y, or Z to women. Understand that whoever deemed it as such was never a woman.
***** *****
We are more than our headscarves and our hymens. Listen to those of us fighting. Amplify the voices of the region and poke the hatred in its eye.

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Nar suyu, Pomegranate juice

Nar suyu was everywhere during my recent trip to Istanbul! Young men pushed carts, overflowing with pomegranates and a juice press, around the tourist attractions. They were selling the freshest version of pomegranate juice that I have ever drank. (Drunk? Grammar police, comment with correction.)

The tourist attractions sometimes offered nar suyu as well, which was the case at the Basilica Cistern. This is a must-see historical landmark, and admission is fairly priced for the experience. Don’t let a long line put you off, either, the line moves quickly.

I digress.

In the cafe near Basilica Cistern’s exit staircase, nar suyu was going for 6TL (Turkish Lira), roughly $3. Or so I remember. For a large glass.

I almost caved at that moment, but decided to hold out for one of the street vendors.

After strolling past the Hippodrome, and wandering past carpet alley (“Where are you from? Wisconsin? Oh! We have an employee who married a woman from Wisconsin.” Yea, SURE you do…), I found myself at the mouth of the Astra Bazaar.

The Astra Bazaar is sort of a sedative to the mayhem of the Grand Bazaar. You can spend bundles of money and get high quality wares in both places, but the experiences are vastly different. The Astra is calm and quiet, the Grand is hyperactive and noisy. “Teamen” (future post, but no surprises lurking here) can be found at both places, but I was looking for pomegranate juice, nar suyu.



Happily, this young man served me.


I would have shown his face, but it would have cost me more TL and he was already taking me on the juice – 10TL a glass! I happily paid it however, tourist season was just beginning and I like to overpay young entrepreneurial kids. Plus, maybe he didn’t want his face on someone’s travel blog even for a couple TL.

The juice was thick and rich. I sipped it for a solid half hour and enjoyed each sweet-tart moment. Tesekkür Ederiz (Thank You) nar suyu entrepreneur!



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Thank you, thank you, thank you

A slightly overbearing, but ultimately inspiring sign in the home of the Reiki massage therapist I visit in Sicily.

*Photo taken and posted with permission.

Today, I am thankful for all of you who read and comment, or send follow-up emails, or just read. You help me feel connected to the U.S., to my family, to my heritage and friendships. At the same time, you allow me to explore, to vent sorrows and to share joy, and to tap into my creative soul. Thank you.


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Cinquecento Old School

Boo-yah 5-100!

Uno (1). Rocking the morning with a 4-mile run; halfway into a strong wind, and half with it on my side/at-my-back. A great way to start the morning.

Due (2). Still feeling the soft feet, soothed muscles, and general relaxation from a visit to Shalai spa in Lingualossa over the weekend. (Say it three times, Lingualossa, Lingualossa, Lingualossa…so smooth). Yes, the center door is the entrance to the magical world of Shalai. I had an amazing spa, a relaxation massage (on a water table board), and a nice pedicure. Then, I had the BEST meal I’ve eaten in Sicily. I will return soon to do a full fledged foodie piece on the dining experience. Service was superb!


Tre (3). Reveling in the high spirits that come from working with an amazing group of people. Often times at work, my tasks remain within my office, and I don’t interact every day with my contractor colleagues…but we have a great time when we get together. Giggles, giggles, and more giggles. “I think I’m crying!” followed the giggles. Good times.

Quattro (4). Realizing how f**ing wonderfully amazing it is to start the week organizing a trip to Winery A (with world renown wines) and re-align in order to organize a trip to Winery B (with world renown wines), all because of an hour of driving time. Hey, Sicily is a great place to live!

Cinque (5). Sharing a special moment with Dave at the end of the day.


Recently, I have been teenagey angsty. Much of my discomfort can be attributed to final adjustments of settling into the commute, the monotony of any job, and … – who knows? To gain perspective, I tried to share my truth over and over. Some ways were more direct (“I hate today”), and other days were just expressive (“I’m not myself”). Although I strive toward a high level of self-awareness, I still struggle to deal with such angst. Life is a beautiful mystery, and even at her most enigmatic, I can’t help but relish each moment I struggle in this world.


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