Monthly Archives: November 2012

Thankful for Brugge

The thankful feelings I grow at Thanksgiving time are meant to inspire thankfulness throughout the year. I often approach my problems or worries by searching for the silver lining (actual happy moment in the fray), or seeking out my red ribbon (the way the calamity is interwoven in my life and will become a part of who I am), or at least a lesson I can learn. That is how I bring grace to my life.

With such an approach, it is pleasantly simple to return home from a trip full of quaint anecdotes and cheerful memories. After spending my Thanksgiving holiday in Brugge, Belgium (Bruges to English speakers), I can safely say that my grace saving techniques went unused. Even a grumpy mc-grumperson couldn’t help but be charmed by Brugge.


Scenic canals like this run along the edges of the center and twist into back alleys where adorable boutique hotels with secluded dining rooms await you. Romance is lurking in every tidy storefront, cafe, and apartment facade adorned with charming window box arrangements.


Our favorite cafe was Cafè Rose Red. Dave found it on Trip Advisor and the reviews were spot on. Friendly service, 150 beer selection, great crowd, and bewitching setting, especially after a few swigs of a strong Belgian brew.

Cafè Red Rose
Belgium 2012



And, I didn’t even get photos of the amazing chocolates or ubiquitous mussels and frites and baked goat cheese and honey salads.

Merci beaucoup, Brugge!


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Beach report: Isola Bella

Isola Bella is a delightful most-of-the-time island at the foot of the hill that leads up to Sicily’s famous tourist trap destination, Taormina.

I was at Isola Bella on the 5th of November this year! My cousin Maddie was visiting with her darling friend Lindsay. This was on the tail end of my parents’ visit, and they even overlapped a little bit in Rome. You can see Lindsay and Maddie chatting in photos in this post.

In Sicily, Maddie and Lindsay had enjoyed mid-upper 70s at the height of the afternoon warmth for several days. On the 5th, we decided to test our luck by planning a beach day. It never warmed enough for full sea immersion, but we did relax on the pebble beach and shared a few laughs. What more could a simple woman ask for?

-Photo by Lindsay Boggs via Instagram
Isola Bella
Sicily 2012

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So…what’s a Brony?

a guy who loves My Little Pony in the 2010s

Still confused? Take about three and a half minutes to find out (last 1 1/2 minutes are on other topics):

I have to admit, I feel like I am missing out. I absolutely loved My Little Pony when I was little and I am excited to revisit it now.

On this same topic, check out JeongMee Yoon‘s exploration of blue and pink. She is documenting the obsession small children sometimes have with pink (girls) and blue (boys) and how it relates to the marketing and consuming done all around the world. She mentions the ponies and how even though girls and boys may outgrow these preferences as they age, they tend to maintain their original associations with the color code.

As someone who chose blue as my favorite color when I was about 8 or 9; and threw pink and purple to the wind, I have thought a lot about femininity, masculinity and the expression of these themes in modern culture. I chose blue as my favorite color, “chose” it – didn’t “like” it, because it was a “boy” color. I wanted the opportunities available to boys. Although my parents, teachers, media, and others told me I could be “anything [I] want when [I] grow you” – I wanted the automatic preference, the automatic deference, and the automatic approval that I saw boys receiving in all the scholastic, familial, and social scenes surrounding me. Or, at least that is what I remember. I had a great childhood, but I understood angst early on!

What about you? Do you remember your favorite color as a child? What’s your favorite color now?

Time to try to turn Dave into a Brony!

Ciao, ciao

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Jonathan Wakuda Fischer – Installation Video

Remember when I talked about the mural going up in our house at the end of September?

Here’s a summary of the process and the beautiful art we get to enjoy every day.

Thank you Jonathan Wakuda Fischer!

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The Holidays have Landed

Although I am open to listening to Christmas music all year long, I find that I willfully hold off in September and October so that it seems more festive when I start listening to it in November.

Yesterday, both to and from work, I listened to a mixed CD that my sister Jenni made for me last winter, filled with Christmas songs or songs that mention snow or winter, or both. It was fantastic. The timing aligned with the onset of the cold season here in Sicily. Yes, I just went to the beach on Monday, November 5th. And, no, we have not yet turned the heat on in our house. Cut me some slack, weather is relative, and for Sicily, it is getting cold!

After I cracked the door with the winter music, I reminded myself of the early mailing deadline for my post office (December 3rd!), and the Christmas gifts I still exchange with my family. A mix of siblings, cousins, and parents that is boring and complicated to explain, but pretty darn fun to shop for. Of course, the most enjoyable shopping is for the darling nieces and nephew!

With these thoughts in mind, I was enticed to purchase a holiday planning guide from the financially savvy women at Daily Worth. This is the same website that prompted my musings on debt. The Peace of Mind Holiday Guide can be purchased as a PDF ($9.99) or an ebook ($4.99) by clicking on this link.

Because I am still one of those crazy readers who hasn’t purchased and e-reader, I opted for the PDF. I am confident I will get an e-reader someday, and maybe someday soon, but I am historically a late-bloomer when it comes to technology. I was still on cassettes when everyone else had switched to CDs; the last of my college friends to switch to a cell phone; didn’t join Facebook until 2008; late to the smartphone party…and still waiting to dive into the e-reader pool.

The PDF version is a 41-page document that focuses on enjoying the giving that you do during this season. It offers tips and tactics to avoid the stress and overspending that are hallmarks of the U.S. tradition of holiday overindulgence. Just like we tend to eat one too many Christmas cookie, many of us buy one too many gifts…and to what end?

My goal in purchasing the planner is twofold: (1) to investigate Daily Worth and (2) to investigate my holiday spending habits.

Why investigate Daily Worth? I have been receiving Daily Worth emails for approximately a year and I appreciate the nudge they give me to refocus on finances. I understand and appreciate the complexity of investment tools available, as well as the necessity to be engaged with my financial reality in order to execute a successful financial future. Yet, I am dismayed and disgusted by the blatant greed represented by the parts of the financial industry that focus on more, more, more. I feel like Daily Worth helps me find an entry point in the discussion that I haven’t been able to identify in any other place, online, with financial professionals, or among friends.

Yet, Daily Worth also makes me wrinkle my nose as it assumes my consumerism level is much higher than it is; it offended me with its post-election edition; and it has just a tad too many advertiser posts mixed into its regular email content. Thus, I frequently consider discontinuing my membership and am constantly investigating Daily Worth content for reasons to stay with it or to quit it.

Investigating my holiday spending habits is a more understandable and probably a shared interest among many of us. Not only do I appreciate having a game plan going into the season, but perhaps I will accomplish the tasks associated with spreading season’s greetings far and wide in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling liked I missed opportunities to connect. Too many years, December 19th rolls around and I realize there is no way I will reach out in the way I had hoped to do. Although I soothe that burn with the recognition that I do actively reach out to my friends and family all year long (and recognize other milestones with them), there is a special joy that comes with participating in a cultural celebration. For better or worse, my annual cultural celebration is centered on the Christmas traditions of gift-giving, sparkling decor, sharing warm sentiments, and snuggling up with loved ones against the cold, and sometimes snowy weather.

As I make my way through Daily Worth’s planning guide, I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has advice to give. How do you manage the demands of the holiday season? What traditions are your favorites? What traditions did you ditch long ago? Share your experiences in the comments!

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Casa di Jill-o

Just when you thought there wasn’t an affordable B&B in the Catania metro region, you read this review of Casa di Jill-o. The house features a modern guest room complete with USA themed cat cover on the bed, wooden slatted shutters for sensory deprivation leading to the best sleep of this year (if not your life), and errant cat hair that the numerous cleanings prior to your arrival did not completely eliminate.

Authentic Afghanistan souvenir.

Dark or bright – your choice!

If this description alone isn’t enough, just think of the box shower that makes you feel tiny! It is completely different from the U.S. propaganda showers designed to make you feel fat all the time. This shower looks incredibly small, and at less than 1 meter diagonal, it IS small! The narrow door openings (which barely let your shoulders and hips fit through at an angle) add to the barriers that help you enjoy feeling really tiny once you are inside and realize you can take an entire shower without banging into the plastic shower box walls…if you are very careful. For those who do touch up against the walls, do not worry, the signora of Casa di Jill-o regularly washes the walls with a light bleach mixture sure to disinfect any nastiness.

Seriously, this is my shower.

Rise up the slightly creaky spiral staircase to the upper level for stunning views of Mt. Etna and the Ionian Sea.

Mt. Etna
November 2012

Ionian Sea (Mediterranean Sea is to the south)
November 2012

The Ionian touches the lips of the Mediterranean a mere 120 kilometers south of Catania, and it enjoys the same shimmering blue waters and warm currents that Italian and French Riviera visitors rave about. You can even go swimming in early November!

Friends, family, lesser-known-acquaintances, don’t hesitate, start looking for airfares now and reach out to Casa di Jill-o to book your next trip to Sicily!


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Four More Years…at least.

This morning I awoke with the words “Happy Anniversary” on my mind…

…and from the other room I heard “They are calling it for Obama!” “And, Tammy and Tommy is close, but Tammy’s ahead!” “And, Warren won!!!”

Sigh. It was a great anniversary!

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