Category Archives: Adjusting

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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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.



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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

Is this a post about my job or the Packers? It’s kinda tough to tell…


Uno (1). We got internet at the house!!! Yay! Oh happy day!

Due (2). Work lunch – food. I ate a delightful plate of Penne alla Puttanesca. Don’t look up “puttanesca” – just trust me that this spicy tomato-based sauce is delightful when paired with the tart and tangy capers and meaty and flavorful kalamata olives as it was yesterday at Alfio’s. Buonissima!

Tre (3). Work lunch – guest of honor. Yesterday I dined with Lauren Weiner, who founded Wittenberg Weiner Consulting. She started the company in 2004 and you can read more about that process here. I was glad to meet her and to have the opportunity to thank her for starting the company that is helping me find a great job here in Sicily.

Quattro (4). I can see Mt. Etna again! After the heavy rains set in Friday night, I barely saw dear Etna beneath the haze of clouds that was her own weather microclimate. She graced the horizon once again yesterday morning and it was a sight for sore eyes. Gee, can you tell I’m already in love with this mountain?

Cinque (5). Early to bed! I’m not sure if it is the weather or fighting off a bug, but I got into bed at 9:30pm last night and fell asleep almost instantly. It was great.


Work worries have been my quiet companion lately. As regular readers know, I landed a job a month ago. Many have queried me since then, and I have had little to say because I have been doing paperwork and biding my time until the job is ready for me. Being that the nation (U.S.), region (here on base), and much of the planet is facing a depressed job market, insecurity was trying to murmur in my ear. I have been focused on patiently awaiting my start date. More activity is brewing currently; I’m confident a start date is coming soon!

Bonus Aaron Rodgers sighting – enjoy!

Although I am not much of an overall NFL fan, I am a diehard Green Bay Packers fan. No, I can’t tell you many of the offensive, defensive or special teams players. And, NO, I don’t even know for sure who the coach is right now. What I CAN tell you is that I’ve loved the Packers since Sterling Sharpe, through the Brett Favre years, and into the era of Donald Driver and Aaron Rodgers. I’m also a big fan of that dude with the icky blonde hair, Clay Matthews. Go PACK!


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Friendly Friday


Another Theme Day – yay!
The top Five ways I feel part of a community this morning.

Uno (1). Real Fun Food – this wonderful blogger writes about food from London, England. I am still learning about her, but so far I know she is from the U.S. Midwest (represent!) and she has great recipes and wit. And, she cares about GMO food – and so do I! I am pro-labeling.

Due (2). The Occupy Movement (a new twist)
I am pretty sure I fall in the 99%, but I have had a pretty charmed life, truth be told. I don’t mind working hard for my living, and I believe that most people would be happy to have the opportunity to do the same.

Tre (3). Big-time food blogger
This blogger is very famous and has gained a significant and loyal following as well as published articles and achieved her Registered Dietitian certification. Beautiful blog, yummy food, and an overall feel-good attitude.

Quattro (4). Yoga – dare I say it again this week? From the KathEats blog, I got a reference for a new yoga master, Dave Farmar, who produces podcast yoga workouts free to you and me! Check him out and feel the yoga love.

Cinque (5). Another great blogger who I am loving, at Logy Express. This post is pretty emotional and struck a nerve in my gut. Even though I haven’t had this exact experience, she describes the feelings so well, I immediately thought of other moments of ostracism and humiliation I have felt when among who I thought were my friends (maybe they really are, how much is in our own insecurities?).


The Cinquecento Project exists as my deliberate practice of focusing on the positive in life. By remembering five daily highlights, I find myself focused on highlights all day long; very empowering! Yet, I still stumble in life; I feel sorrow, fear, and pain. Here, I can report to you on positively dealing with that pain, instead of wallowing in misery alone. Although we experience life uniquely, sharing our experiences empowers us to continue moving forward. I treasure your feedback and support, so keep the comments and emails coming and feel free to share your struggles and successes. Ciao from Sicilia!


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Photo Edition!

Five photos from our shopping outing to Conforama, a furniture store similar to Ikea.

Uno (1)
Gorgeous microwave. So pretty, so random. Love it!


Due (2)
“Soccer” foosball table. Yes, it says “soccer” and not “calcio” (Italian word for soccer) – weird.


Tre (3)
Awesome discount movie selection. I love, love, love the Flashdance dvd jacket!


Quattro (4)
An entire row dedicated to espresso machines!


Cinque (5)
Lastly, a life-size doll for pre-teens. Creepy, creepy, creepy.


Shopping is the same everywhere. Here in Sicily, they even translate shopping as, wait for it, shopping. Today we dropped another tidy bundle of money at Conforama. During four grueling hours, we made it through the language barrier with good will (theirs), mangled Italian (ours), and a smidgen of help from the itranslate app. Have I mentioned I love my iphone? It is such fun to improve my Italian vocabulary via necessity and experience rather than a book and flashcards. For every second of frustration and anxiety over the language barrier, the thrills of comprehension and learning count for minutes.


Filed under 5-100, Adjusting

We Are the 99 Percent


Uno (1). Sleeping in. Dave and I designated Wednesday as our “off-day” for morning work-outs. The extra hour of sleep felt delicious.

Due (2). Reading another chapter in La Bella Lingua, by Dianne Hales. She reveals that in Italian “Chicago” (chi – cago) sounds close to “I poop here” – ha ha. I often tell people that I am from Wisconsin, then, when a confused/bemused look appears on their faces, I say “It’s near Chi-cago.” This worked with Spanish speakers over the years. Now I know why Italians laugh when I say it.

Tre (3). Maki is happy, happy, happy in our new home. It is amazing how much happiness pets give us, I am glad to see him happy now.

Quattro (4). Intense dreams. All of my life, my dream world has influenced me. When I am experiencing major changes in my life, my dreams become more intense. Usually, they remind me to savor life – which makes each day more special and meaningful.

Cinque (5). Agriturismo! We dined at the Murgo Winery & Agriturismo last night, also known as la Tenuta di San Michele. One of Dave’s colleagues initiated the dinner and we were thrilled to find out it is about a 15-20 minute drive from our house. Italy subsidizes agriturismos, who in turn promise to serve food that is made from ingredients grown on the farm (at least a prescribed percentage of the ingredients grown there). It is social-rural tourism at its best! (Pics below)

First, a display of locally grown and produced wines.

Vibrant and flavorful extra virgin olive oil grown and produced by Murgo, too!

Olive oils infused with (L to R) “Aglio” (garlic), “Limone” (lemon), “Basilico” (basil), and “Peperoncino” (chile pepper).

The antipasti spread of cured meats and local cheeses to accompany the wine and olive oil tasting that preceded dinner.

I am honored to support the hard-working farmers who planted, nurtured, and harvested the fruits that produced such wonderful products. Italians complain about their government (just like everyone else), but this project shows the beauty and progressive vision of putting people to work on meaningful projects. Delizioso!


The Occupy Wall Street movement got me thinking about U.S. unemployment culture. In Sicily, unemployment is historically and currently high (20-40%). Perhaps because of its ubiquity and longevity, Sicilians accept unemployment as an undesirable, but very real, possibility. In the U.S., unemployment is scorned by employers and peers, and most who endure it battle feelings of shame. How unfortunate. High unemployment rates indicate a social problem, not an individual failing; and, ostracizing the unemployed creates tears in our social fabric. The OWS group “We Are the 99 Percent” is working to mend those tears, and I support them. Do you?


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