Tag Archives: Mt. Etna

A Mixed Bag: Runner Lauren Fleshman, Running Gear, Thoughtful Consumerism, and Mt. Etna

Lauren Fleshman is my new running inspiration. She wrote this amazing opening post in her new column on Runner’s World.

I’m checking out her company Picky Bars; and the company who sponsors her, Oiselle. The Oiselle brand seems geared to elite women runners, or women with the body type of elite women runners. For example, their running bras don’t provide support for anyone over a C cup (that’s me). If you’re searching for a great sports bra and you’ve got some great body to work with, check out Moving Comfort’s Fiona model, I love it.

I’ve recently been struggling with my spending choices – the Bangladesh factory collapse reminds me why I avoid consumption of mass-made goods as much as possible. Yet, a lot of my running gear, including specialized running fuels, are part of that mass-made industry. I’m still struggling with that one – if you have insights or recommendations, hit me up in the comments.

I am contacting Picky Bars for the details on where they buy the ingredients for their gluten-free, dairy-free, preservative-free bars, I’ll let you know what I hear. The ingredient list includes which ingredients are certified organic (it’s most of them), but as my good friend Megan recently reminded me – the organic certification does not indicate anything about the labor practices of a farm, orchard, or other food-producing entity.

Oiselle puts these details right out there on their FAQ page:
“Where is your apparel made?
Everything you see on our website was designed and tested by real women athletes in Seattle Washington. 80% of the spring 2013 line is USA made! The other 20% is responsibly manufactured elsewhere. Each product page will tell you where that particular product was made.”
My brief shopping experience brought up several pairs of running shorts made in china and all the t-shirts I clicked on made in the usa. Neither ensures great labor practices, but the usa is a better bet.

Otherwise, enjoy this photo from Mt. Etna’s most recent eruption, last night:
April 27, 2013
Mt. Etna Eruption
Acireale, Sicily
from our terrace


Filed under Awesomeness, Running

Buon Natale

Buon Natale from me!


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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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Fire, Fire, Sunset

Happy Monday!

I’m settled into my evening that arrived after a long and productive Monday. I hope your Monday is treating you half as well as mine. Sicily never ceases to amaze me. This weekend I enjoyed an incredibly professional, multi-course, gourmet, local dinner at the agriturismo Murgo. It is so close to our house that I actually ran within a half mile of it on my twelve mile run last weekend.

We dined al fresco under vines full of ripening grapes. We celebrated a group of wonderful colleagues from WWC (Wittenberg Weiner Consulting, my employer). Not only did the meal, company and setting blow me away, but the hard-working staff did, too! They were cheerful, running a serious service game, and gracious as all get out. Mind you, we were dripping sweat in the 8pm evening heat at the get go. Our head server cooly appeared just when we needed him, and I only once saw sweat beaded on his brow.

With no real segue from that night to this, I’m going to roll right into the photo feature of this blogpost, with two fires and a sunset. The fires are quick iphone shots as I approached our village this evening. The flames eventually leapt high enough to climb above the treetops in between our home and the fire. Meanwhile, Mt. Etna basked in the waning sunlight…

I could feel the heat on the left side of my face as I drove past the fire!

Gentle giant, the beautiful Mt. Etna.

What did you do this weekend? Did anything somewhat ordinary blow you away with extraordinary attention to detail?


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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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Seven Devils

I am in lurve with Florence and the Machine‘s Ceremonials album, so I see song titles and lyrics everywhere!

“Seven Devils” seems appropriate for this beautiful photo, courtesy of Teresa C at my office. She lives further north of the mountain than I do, much closer to it, and she has a significantly better camera than I. I just love the spreading fingers of lava and the shades of purple in the sky.

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Princess Poopy-pants is Pooped Out

Amici, Friends,

Do you ever have a Monday that flies by in a thick, soupy haze of to-do lists from the week before? When the cool fingers of your routine reaching out to grab you around the waist and anchor you to your desk chair? Thoughts you had over the weekend about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness desperately clinging to your consciousness as the next dreary task dislodges your attention to your soul?

No? Me neither.

For a moment, let’s live in the past!

Weekend highlights:
Saturday morning I plunged into Jillian Michaels and I am still feeling sore today! Then, I got to revisit Gambino winery for a friend’s birthday party. A minor infection took me out the rest of Saturday and nearly all of Sunday, and contributed greatly to today’s lethargy. Okay, okay, the meal at Gambino’s might have left me a tad lethargic, too.

We arrived mid-afternoon, when the sun was shining on the newly trimmed vines that looked starkly naked in the glaring sunlight. In contrast to the lovely visions floating in my memory from my November visit, the landscape had not sprung into spring quite yet. No foliage distracted our eyes, flowers and other blooms had been cut back, and the dirt was freshly turned over, but not still glistening with life. The atmosphere inside the glassed in tasting room proved that you can’t judge a wine tasting by its vineyard.

The cheese platter was largely the same, and our autumn chestnuts were replaced with two varieties of sun-dried tomato, mushrooms drizzled with olive oil and shredded parmigiano, and oil-cured olives. Oil-cured olives are typically black olives that have been preserved with oil rather than vinegar. They shrivel up like prunes and have a chewier, less springy, texture than other olives. Their flavor is rich and potent, the perfect compliment to the vanilla tones of Gambino’s Nero d’Avola (red).

We also tasted the Feu d’O, a light and playful white; Cantari, Gambino’s signature table wine with a bit more complexity though maintaining a light body and smooth finish (they make red and white, we tasted the white); then the last wine was another red, the Tifeo. Dessert was a “cloud” cookie, as many call them.

Cloud cookies are a lovely puff of nutty dough that bakes to a cracked cookie crust protecting the thick nougaty innards. Many Sicilian pasticcerie carry cloud cookies of mandorla – almond paste. Gambino served us cloud cookies made of hazelnut. The cookies are dusted with a fine layer of powered sugar. Delightful!

After an afternoon on the side of a mountain, enjoying the bounty of Gambino’s pantry and wine cellar, who could blame me for wandering into thoughts of following my passions, doing my taxes and mitigating my Princess Poopy-pants responsibilities.

The weekend also featured a dynamic Mt. Etna explosion. About ten days ago we felt a little earthquake around 10:30pm at night. Dave and I looked at each other asking “why are you making the bed shake? Wait – HOW are you… Wait – WHAT is that!?!?!?!” The bed was shaking, the doors were wobbling, and just like that – it was over. We later heard it was a 2.5 – pretty mild. Nevertheless, we were anticipating an eruption ever since then.

La mattina brought the echoing booms of the explosions, which shook our windows and rattled our doors. The explosions came fast and furious, and within an hour or so, the show was over. Perhaps it was the wine, perhaps it was the volcano, or perhaps Princess Poopy-pants just has a case of the Mondays. Whatever it is, this princess is pooped out. Ciao ciao.

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Run Week

Here are some more photos from the Base 2 Base race on Sigonella last Saturday. It was a little over 7.6 miles, with little elevation, lots of sunshine and camaraderie, and green beer at the finish line (for cash – MWR can’t give away beer!).


Several colleagues from my office and from Dave’s office were also running the race. Here is a legalmen running alongside Dave as we make our start!


The luck of the Irish was well represented, even by the artwork of this runner’s child.


Mt. Etna looked down benevolently on the runners.


All’s well that ends well.


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More Mt. Etna eruptions


(Uno) 1. Waking up to a gigantic lava flow running down Mt. Etna toward our neighborhood.

(Due) 2. Remembering that we are about 20 miles away from the summit, and there are manmade diversions (besides buildings and such) that are designed to keep the lava away from our neighborhood.

(Tre) 3. Watching the sun rise over the snow-covered, lava-smeared mountain as we drove to work this morning. Okay, okay, “we” didn’t drive to work (how awkward!) – Dave drove. I drive home. Sometimes.

(Quattro) 4. My colleague returned to work today! If you have any extra energy to give tonight, send it the direction of Sigonella for this exceptional woman and her husband, who just lost his father. She was out for the funeral. The office wasn’t the same without her and I am thrilled she is back!

(Cinque) 5. Pictures!!! Another colleague of mine, Teresa, took some amazing photos of the lava flow. She snapped these shots from her house, which is further north on the coastline, and further west from the autostrada. Plus, she has an amazing camera and a great eye! (See below)


Easy dinner is my favorite kind of dinner. Oh, you know I love food, and it’s true I’ve been known to cook, but the truth is that I love to eat food other people have prepared. My interest in cooking stemmed more from the dearth of quality restaurants at my income level than from a deep desire to feed others or cut my fingers up. Indeed, I dreamt of attending cooking school and developing wicked good knife skills. Alas, like many of my dreams (ahem, “saving-the-environment”), I have accepted that I can’t have it all. Mmmm…easy dinner toasted-bread-with-vegetable-and-melted-cheese, you’re the best!

Mt. Etna and her glorious eruption:

The lovely contrast between the snow and lava.


The lava explodes, pushing rock and debris in its path.


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(Uno) 1. Mt. Etna erupts! Just as I was about to exit the autostrada, Dave yelled out “Holy shit! That was AWESOME!” As I searched for a truck bearing down on me, a Fiat Cinquecento entering my lane, or at least a dog on the road, he finished with “I just saw Mt. Etna erupt!”

(Due) 2. It’s pretty easy blogging on a day when the volcano is erupting. If you want to feel like you are here, check out the ETNA WEBCAM. Our view is similar to Cam 5 view.

(Tre) 3. Private Benjamin. A classic! Best line: “If Patton were alive, he would slap your face!”

(Quattro) 4. Awesome, awesome run this afternoon. I started with a so-so attitude, set my goal and just went after it. Five miles later, I was grinning my way into my cool down. I love it when perseverance dominates apathy!

(Cinque) 5. Cloud cookies. More on these delectable cookies soon – they have a slightly crunchy cookie edge with a doughy-moist inside that melts in your mouth. It really is like biting into a cloud (yes, I AM a cloud biting expert). Pistacchio e arance (pistachio and orange) flavored!


Striving to find a beat to step to, I start finding fault in those around me. Nobody makes sense and everyone is an idiot today. I take a breath, trying to let it out as a laugh, and the world seems to stop. The air around me is dead, I cannot smell, and even the buzzing of electronics disappears, I suck all the light into my body and it is dark. Thumpthump. Thumpthump. Thumpthump. Whoosh! Without warning, all my senses are empowered and the world resumes as if someone hit the fast forward button. My head and my heart functioned more in tune, stress released, compassion returned. Amen/allelujah/namaste/whatever-you-say.


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