Tag Archives: family

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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Roma in the rain with my parents

No, this isn’t the solution for a game of Clue.

Instead, it is the title for a quick blog post with highlights from our visit to Rome last weekend with my parents. Enjoy the photos!

Skip the Line Vatican Tour
October 2012

Piazza di San Pietro

First-ever hop-on/hop-off tour
Results invalid

Yay! Can’t wait for the premiere!
No celebrities sighted.

New favorite Italian wine.
New great memory with Mom.

Romance and coin throwing at a rainy Fontana di Trevi

Fontana di Trevi
Details – Sharon & John

Enjoying the Pantheon with Dad

Never fails to impress.
One of my favorite sights in Roma.

We passed by the Trevi Fountain again the next day. Weather report was 100% chance of rain at this moment in time. Glad we didn’t heed the weather report! What a glorious day.

Two world travelers chatting at a charming doorway in Rome.

Celebrating Mom’s 60th birthday a few days early. Happy Birthday Mama!


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Uncle Bill Homage

Meet Uncle Bill

He has a big heart, a silly soul, and an infectious laugh.

Uncle Bill likes to convince friends and family to join him on adventures in Mexico. For several years, I accompanied him to his timeshare. It was a special way to spend time together near the water. My sister Jenni and I are pictured here with Bill. Along with my brother and cousins, we all grew up swimming and boating together, and Uncle Bill was at the heart of it all. I will always think of water when I think of Uncle Bill.

Shortly after my first trip to Italia in 2005, I was in Mexico with Bill when I met this sassy lady, Sue. She was one of the first to subscribe to the blog, and any thought of her brings a smile to my face.

Here, Bill is wheeling Sue’s husband Scott around on a dolly. Silly souls unite! Scott and Sue really get the compassionate aspect of our family vibe, and they are down-to-earth, easy-going, and ultimately non-judgmental; with qualities like that, you’d be shocked at how outrageously funny they also are.

Apart from the countless lake memories, the Mexico memories, the oodles of Bill’s friends memories, and such, I can easily rattle off connection points – The Golden Girls, struggling to make sense of Catholic dogma and practice (Bill is still fighting that good fight), politics, human rights, and more!

As Dave and I prepared the house for Bill’s visit, our family stories were up for discussion. Bill is one of twelve aunts and uncles I have, not counting spouses (that puts it around 22 aunts and uncles). Dave has one aunt.

Hence our varying approach to family issues, at times.

I grew up listening to the cacophony that comes from such a family, especially one who is relatively tight knit on both my mother’s and my father’s side. Happily, I have medium to strong adult relationships with many of my aunts and uncles. They are the village that raised me and that continues to influence me.

No matter the influence of individual aunts and uncles; I can say that no other aunt or uncle has ever crafted a personal theme song; only Uncle Bill did that. An avid sports fan, Uncle Bill made sure we knew the Minnesota Twins’ fight song. While Grandma Smith was busy encouraging us to learn “On Wisconsin!” Bill was whispering baseball ditties in the other ear.

Once we learned the Twins’ fight song, Bill began adapting the lyrics…

Minnesota Twins’ fight song 
Sing along to that tune:
Oh how I love you
Favorite Uncle Bill
Oh how I love you
Open up the till

Hit me with a ten-spot
Leave me in your will
Oh how I love you
Favorite Uncle Bill

Twins’ Fight Song
(We’re gonna win Twins)
(We’re gonna score)
(We’re gonna win Twins)
(Watch that baseball soar)

(Crack out a home run)
(Shout out hip-hooray!)
(Cheer for the Minnesota)
(Twins to-day)

Tonight, I pick Uncle Bill up from the airport – yippee!

Oh yea, and Go Twinkies! (Are they still in the running for the play-offs?)


Filed under 5-100, Awesomeness, Travel

I love nerds.




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Oozy woozy Friday



Hellllllooooo there, Friday! If this post seems oozy woozy, it’s because I finally indulged in a massage. My tight back muscles were not relenting and my massage is the first step in addressing the stress lodged there. In my woozy state of mind, on a Friday evening, when I am under instruction not to consume alcohol (Thanks for the prescription, massage therapist Jennifer). What, and ruin the benefits from the massage??? I am inclined to enjoy some creative thinking as I read fun blogs, newsy articles and opinionated columns. Here is a sampling of what’s sticky from the blog reads, if you need some giggles, a hearty chuckle or a heart-warming story, check these out:


(Uno) 1. 52 Weeks, 52 Runs – a Freshly Pressed post of the blog Stride & Joy. I absolutely love this post – the truth about running, especially in the first few years – struggle and joy ebb and flow as you slowly become hooked!

(Due) 2. Snoring Dog Studio blog talks about ten things she won’t do in 2012 – silliness abounds!

(Tre) 3. Probably my favorite read includes an adorable video at the end with people trying to pronounce “L’Occitane” – can you say it?

(Quattro) 4. Simplicity in how we live. Beautiful.

(Cinque) 5. Okay, okay, so HuffPo is not a blog, it is a force to be reckoned with – just like the girls this article features.


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We are Family – an Italian lesson.


Theme day = FAMILY!

(Uno) 1. Family = La famiglia.
Mother = Madre
Father = Padre
Sister = Sorella
Sisters = Sorelle
Brother = Fratello
Brothers = Fratelli

(Due) 2. In our modern age, we need to know how to describe the whole nuclear family:
Stepmother = Matrigna
Stepfather = Patrigno
Stepsister = Sorellastra
Stepbrother = Fratellastro

(Tre) 3. Of course, none of us would be here without the grandparents.
Grandparents = Nonni
Grandmother = Nonna
Grandfather = Nonno

(Quattro) 4. If you’re anything like me, your life is enriched by your wonderful aunts, uncles and cousins.
Aunt = zia
Aunts = zie
Uncle = zio
Uncles = zii
Cousin = cugino
Cousins = cugini

(Cinque) 5. And then, if you choose to get married, how do you refer to your new family?
Mother-in-law = suocera
Father-in-law = suocero
Sister-in-law = cognata
Brother-in-law = cognato

UPDATE: As Tracy pointed out in the comments, I left out two very important family members.
Husband = Marito
Wife = Moglie


“We are family!” (“Siamo una famiglia” just doesn’t roll off my tongue the same way.) Over the last two days, our family has enjoyed the temporary addition of my brother (fratello) Jim. We have mixed sight seeing with starting our home viewing of the HBO series “The Wire.” We visited Nicolosi, Aci Castello, Aci Trezza, ambled about Santa Maria Ammalati, and of course we watched the New Year’s Eve firework show under Mt. Etna’s silent snow glow. Today we walked into Acireale to see the Duomo and pick up veggies. Jimmy cooked dinner tonight, burritos featuring sauteed eggplant and peppers!

Aci Castello on a sunny winter afternoon. I can just imagine all the sun-bathers we saw last summer.

We climbed to the first level in the castle, here is Jim with Aci Trezza in the background.

Jim looking out on Aci Castello.

Today’s view of Acireale’s Duomo, still decorated for the holidays. Being a strongly Catholic country (about 98%), the Sicilians are celebrating Christmas through the Epiphany. Decorations and parties will continue until that time.


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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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My Grandpa’s Flannel Shirt


(Uno) 1. Autumnal cleaning day – cleaned the house from top to bottom yesterday and it felt great! Today I enjoyed it, completely.

(Due) 2. Computer resurrection! My computer turned on, and I’m typing this post on it now. I have a visit to the Apple store at Centro Sicilia queued up for a post, and now it will have a happy ending!

(Tre) 3. Stumbling upon yet another mall in the Catania area, this one called Katane. I am not much of a mall person in general, but even I have to admit they make you feel good about shopping.

(Quattro) 4. Watching and loving Mulholland Drive. Nice work, David Lynch. Nice work.

(Cinque) 5. This is double using Mulholland Drive, but I was legitimately blown away by Naomi Watts‘ performance in a way I never had been before. As I watch the movie more and more (about once a year), I realize how she really makes the movie as awesome as it is.


Ask anyone who moves a lot, you end up moving the same things over and over and justify it by promising to use them! I cart around art supplies and my piano. I am not willing to give up these items, even as my use of them has decreased over the years. While I’m still figuring out how to fit arts activities into my schedule, I did manage to wear Grandpa Becker’s flannel shirt. Even when I could fit all of my belongings in my car, I still had Grandpa Becker’s shirt with me. Tonight, I’m snuggling into it happily.

Photo Gallery:

Today I’m sharing more Ottobrata Zafferanese pictures. I did not return today as I had planned to do, so I am reliving it with you in these pictures. See you next year, Ottobrata Zafferanese!

An overview of the festivities.

More views from a higher vantage point.

These next couple of shots feature a fried delicacy that I found pretty lacking in flavor and texture qualities. I was attracted to the vibrant color and the hope that it was a fried pickle, but then found out it is a crispy fried donut, flavored as pistachio (green) and fragola (strawberry – the red one). We didn’t even finish them.

Finally, we have a photo of one of the most delicious cheeses I have had in a…oh, well, that I had eaten THAT day. Since then I have had so many delicious cheeses here in Italy, that I lose track. That is charred ash on the outside and fresh ricotta inside. It was more firm than the ricotta you use in lasagna, or to stuff a canolo shell, and it was moist and delicioso! The block at the top shows a cross section.

Enjoy your Sunday!


Filed under 5-100, Awesomeness

Props to Big Jimmy S

Yes, it happens from time to time that I want to sign the praises of a friend or family member.

However, a poor singing voice usually keeps my vocal exercises limited to the car, the shower, or in front of a limited audience of loved ones guaranteed to love me despite my performance (that’s YOU, Dave!).

Yet, my family is rich with excellent singers, from my cousin Steph who can sound exactly like Regina Spektor (how is that possible??!!??), to my cousin Maddie who co-founded the female accapella group at her alma mater (and mine), and (drum roll….) my brother who recently took up guitar and has been a great singer since, well, always, I guess.

Here is his debut solo open mic performance:

Read about this performance and Jim’s perspective on “kicking ass at life.” You won’t be sorry.

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Summer Morning Breezes


  1. Scrumptious breakfast omelette, by Dave, of pistacchios, havarti, and egg whites; he griddled slices of olive bread, too; finally a glass of carrot & orange juice.
  2. Meandering our way, “sensa” (without) the GPS, to Lido Azzurro.
  3. Explaining in mangled Italian that I wanted sun beds “lontano” (far) away from the DJ (too much bass disturbs me).
  4. Delightful sunsoaking and floating in the Ionian Sea.
  5. Watching first a French, and then a German crime show dubbed into Italian, and listening intently for comprehension.

A difficult aspect of living abroad is missing out on special moments with family. My dad celebrated his birthday this weekend and I left him a message, but it wasn’t the same. I’ve lived away from home since I was 18, so I’ve been reaching out creatively for a long time. Then, when I married, I came into a warm fold of 14 more people to get to know (and who get to know me). It’s been great. In honor of family connections, I’m linking to my brother’s blog (http://dontbeafraidtobeawesome.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/balance/). And, cheers to my immediate family: Mom, Dad, Jenni & Jim!

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