Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sagra del Carciofo

Yesterday Les & I went to the artichoke festival in Niscemi. It was so much fun! I will have to let the pictures tell the story today. I don't have time to write much. I probably already spent too much time playing with my pictures. I have a paper to write. It is due tomorrow. Ugh. Enjoy the pictures!

Now playing: DJ Gray - Electro Trance Mix 18 (August 22 2007)
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Inspiration Strikes! (but I swear, it didn't hurt!)

This morning was a study morning. I had a few things to get done so my husband and I can go to an Artichoke Festival this afternoon and evening.

While I was starting at the computer, trying to make heads or tails of my assignment, my husband calls up the stairs to say I have visitors. I, still in my PJs and looking like I just crawled out of bed, come down the stairs and see my friend's daughter (almost 3 years old) waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, holding out a bunch of leaves as a gift. So sweet :)

I chatted with her and her mom for a few minutes and then got back to my studies. Later, once I finished I came downstairs and found the leaves sitting on my counter where I left them. I thought to myself "wouldn't it be cool if I could scan them into my computer?" and then the thought occurred to me, "why not?" so I did.

In the middle of selecting the white background I forgot to hit select inverse and came up with something like the black and white below. I though it was pretty cool so I worked on it a bit. I really like the way it turned out.

I hope you enjoy this gift from C. as much as I did. Have a beautiful day!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Purple Carrots

Today's market find of the day: PURPLE CARROTS! How cool are they? After a quick Google search I learned that carrots come in many shades besides the usual orange. In fact, while carrots have been noted in history as far back as 2000 BC in Egyptian temple drawings (these were purple) orange carrots didn't appear until the Dutch bred them in the 16th century.

I could have sworn that my vegie vendor at the market said that they were more "dolce" (sweet), but I think I misunderstood. I tested one out when I got home and while it tastes like a carrot it certainly is not sweeter than an orange carrot. It had a very mild carrot flavor. I liked it. They will be beautiful in salads or just to munch on.

Up close and personal with a purple carrot that I have a bunch of purple carrots what should I do with them? Any suggestions? (besides salad?)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I thought of it first...

For those of you who regularly read my blog, you know that I like to cook. I have a massive database on my computer of recipes. I use Shop 'N Cook Software to keep me organized. It is great. It took awhile for me to get all of my recipes entered, but it was worth it. I can select a recipe (or multiple recipes) and add the ingredients to my shopping list, then delete the items from the list that I already have in the pantry. I can also add non-recipe items to the shopping list (such as cat food). It even has a calendar function that helps me plan meals for the day, week, month, etc.

While this program is awesome, there are a few features that I wish it had - like a palm pilot-esque device that I could take into the kitchen rather than print massive amounts of recipe cards, or the same device could be taken to the grocery store. It would have all of my recipes on it so, if I found a particular ingredient at the store that I wasn't expecting, I could pick up everything else I need to make a particular meal.

As I was browsing other blogs on Google Reader this morning I found a post about a concept device for the kitchen on the Baking Bites blog. It is called the Kitchen Sync.

Here is what Nicole of Baking Bites has to say about the Kitchen Sync
"The Kitchen Sync looks a bit like a cookbook in shape. It is a small, flexible, washable screen with a dock that charges it and holds it upright. You can download recipes from your computer right onto the Sync and take the screen with you into the kitchen, where you can work right from the recipe (and follow links to buy necessary products and see tips online) without worry about damaging the gadget with slippery, sticky or otherwise messy foods."
Right now, the Kitchen Sync is just a concept product, yet to go into production, but I'm definitely interested! Who knows if I actually thought of this concept first, but I certainly don't have the technical knowledge to produce something like this. Good thing Noah Balmer (the designer of the Kitchen Sync) thought of it too!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Photoshop Rocks!

I love Photoshop! There is so much to this program. I know I barely scratch the surface with what I know how to do. I edited the picture below with a trick my mom just taught me (gotta love having other photographers in the family). This picture of an almond blossom in Agrigento's Valley of the Temples was taken last year, February 2007.

So, if you have access to Photoshop (I used CS...yes, the original CS! I have CS3 on order...just waiting for it to get here. Yes, I know. Its about time I upgraded!) here is how I tweaked it:
  1. Pull up a picture that you want to convert to black and white and add a bit of color to
  2. Go to Image - Adjustments - Desaturate
  3. Grab the History Brush in the tool palette (in my version of CS it is right below the paintbrush)
  4. Choose a brush size that isn't too small or too big. You don't want to take forever painting every pixel, but you don't want to color a larger area than you intend
  5. Go to Image - Adjustments - Hue/Saturation
  6. Move the Saturation slider to the left to soften the color (or to the right to make it brighter)
  7. Voila! You are done! Isn't that fun?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Buona Pasqua

Happy Easter! Just a short, quick post and then we are headed to a friend's house for an Easter potluck. I wanted to share a few pictures of the eggs that Les and I colored last night. We had so much fun!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Piazza Amerina and Enna

Yesterday Les and I took a drive to Piazza Amerina. We took the long way through the hills. It was a gorgeous, clear day.

Les took this shot of the countryside with Mt. Etna in the background.

We reached Piazza Amerina around lunchtime and Les was hungry so we decided to explore the town first and grab some lunch. We ended up in a small piazza near the duomo and found a place to park.

I saw a wine shop while we were parking so we decided to check it out first. It was so much fun! The owner was very friendly and we tasted several wines over the course of probably a half hour. We ended up buying four bottles. The wine went straight to our heads because of our empty tummies so we found a nearby restaurant for lunch.

The place we stumbled upon was a great find! I wish I had thought to write down the name, but I think I could find it again if we went back. In addition to the normal Sicilian dishes you see on almost every menu here they had several creative dishes that intrigued me. I started with an appetizer of melted cheese covered with honey and pine nuts! WOW! For my entree I had penne with fresh ricotta cheese, saffron and mandarin orange zest. WOW again!

After lunch we walked up toward the duomo and explored the little streets in the historic center of town. So many beautiful old buildings!

The Duomo in Piazza Amerina

A steeple near the Duomo, it looked to be covered with an iridescent mosaic. Absolutely gorgeous!

Les got tired of looking at chrurches so we decided to see what else we could find. Our original plan had been to visit the Villa Romana del Casle but it was closed on Mondays so we decided to drive towards Enna and see what we could find there.

The Piazza Amerina Duomo and surrounding city

By the time we reached Enna, after a leisurely drive through the countryside, it was getting to be late afternoon. We made our way into the historic center and parked near the remains of a Norman castle.

The castle and rising moon (the little fleck of white, just above the wall in the middle)

We explored the castle for awhile and climbed to the top of the one fully preserved tower. The view was absolutely breathtaking.

After exploring the castle we decided it was probably time to start making our way home. We walked to the piazza del duomo, had a snack and a cafe before we hit the road.

Duomo in Enna

Tired, but happy after a long day of sightseeing, we headed home, following the directions from our GPS. Apparently our GPS is in bad need of an update because a drive that should have taken no more than an hour and a half ended up taking about two and a half hours..ugh. It really was a beautiful drive until the sun went down. Until then we had good humor about finding closed roads in the middle of nowhere and having to backtrack to an alternate route. We were so glad to be home by the time we got there! All in all it was a great day! There are so many beautiful places to visit in Sicily.

Now playing: Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 10: Moderato
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, March 16, 2008

In and around Frankfurt

Finally, I am getting around to posting about our trip to Frankfurt! The trip was centered around my friend, Kirstin's wedding. She and I have known each other since we were very young (I don't remember how young). She has been living in Germany for several years and studying opera, and recently graduated. She has an AMAZING voice!

Kirstin met Jorn (now her hubbie) in high school and they've been together ever since! He proposed to her on their 10 year dating anniversary! Prior to their wedding, the last time I saw Kirstin was at my wedding, a bit more than four years ago. I wasn't expecting to be able to spend too much time with her, since weddings are so hectic, but I was pleasantly surprised. She and Jorn even made time to meet us at the airport!

After we were settled into our apartment for the weekend (belonging to a friend of Jorn's family) we headed into downtown Frankfurt. Les had schoolwork to do so priority number one was finding someplace for him to get online and study. We walked around for quite awhile but didn't have any luck. How is it that we were in the financial capital of Europe and couldn't find wifi? I don't know...

Eventually we gave up and started looking for someplace to eat dinner. We found a great place, albeit a bit touristy. We shared a massive platter of sausages, sauerkraut, and potatoes and sipped delicious German beer.

The next day was Kirstin & Jorn's civil ceremony. In Germany (and many other places in Europe) you have to get married in a civil ceremony before you can go to the church. At the small ceremony I saw many familiar faces and became acquainted with a few new ones. Several members of Kirstin's family were there and it was great to see them! I also got to meet Jorn's family. They are extremely generous and kind people. The civil ceremony was completely in German so, other than a handful of words I had no idea what was being said, but at the end they were officially married and were able to legally go to the church.

After the Civil Ceremony
Joni (Kirstin's mom), Ron (Kirstin's dad), Kirstin, Jorn, Eva (Jorn's mom), Bern (Jorn's dad)

After the civil ceremony everyone in attendance toasted the couple with champagne or orange juice. After the toasts we made our way up the street to a Thai restaurant for a delicious lunch. The food and company were both great! I love being at a large table surrounded by good people laughing and enjoying each others' company.

Next, we all made our way over to Jorn's house for coffee and dessert. Eva had made a decadent assortment of cakes. I chose one that was like an almond cookie on top, the middle layer was a combination of whipped cream and strawberries, and the bottom was a bit softer like almond cake. It was TO DIE FOR!! I need to ask Kirstin if Eva shares her recipes...

Once we were all full to the brim, several of us decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood. Bern took us to a nature reserve nearby and we walked for a good hour.

Down the path in the nature reserve.

After our walk Les and I decided to make our way back into Frankfurt so he could do some more studying. We found a Starbucks and after a yummy latte I headed outside to walk and discover whatever I could. None of my pictures from that night turned out very well, but I did enjoy the walk and looking in the many shops.

The next day, Friday, was a big study day for Les. I promised him that if he got his schoolwork done that I'd take him back to the restaurant from the first night and buy him a liter stein of beer. He gladly accepted the challenge and finished his schoolwork by mid afternoon.

We then met up with Joni, Ron, Kimily (Kirstin's sister), and Mindy to do some pre-wedding night shopping for Kirstin. The girls took care of the shopping while Ron and Les talked religion outside of the stores. We had a great time picking out fun things for Kirstin and Jorn.

After we had shopped til we were ready to drop we made our way back to the restaurant from the first night. Arnaud (Mindy's hubbie) met up with us and all seven of use crowded around a table and enjoyed delicious German food, great conversation, and lots of laughter.

Saturday was the day of the wedding. We didn't have to be there until mid afternoon so Les and I set off on foot to explore the neighborhood where we were staying. There were several shops and restaurants to look at as well as some quaint architecture.

Springtime is popping up

After our walk we made our way back to the apartment and just about when we were feeling like we were lost we found it! We got changed and headed to the wedding.

Wedding Flowers

The church where Kirstin and Jorn were married

Inside the church

The wedding was beautiful, but sadly I don't have many pictures to prove it. The ones I took inside the church came out very dark, and even though I lightened them up they are grainy. I have them for memory photos, but unfortunately nothing that could be hung on a wall.

Arnaud and Les

Jorn & Kirstin

I think this was the best one I got of them the entire day

After the wedding ceremony we made our way to a beautiful hotel in the country for the reception. The reception was a lot of fun! The food and wine was excellent, but the company was even better.
Arnaud and Mindy

Mindy, Me, & Kirstin

Who would have though that the three of us, all friends since childhood, would end up living in Europe? It was such a treat to be able to see them both, and at the same time. I hope to see them both again soon!

The reception finally wound down around 2:15A Sunday morning. We were exhausted but didn't want to leave. It was hard because I don't know when I'll see them again. It was like spending a long weekend with family. After lots of hugs we pulled ourselves away, knowing that we had a plane to catch in just a few short hours.

No wonder I got sick, right? Haha! At least I was able to stay well while we were in Germany. I had such a great time and I hope we can get together with Kirstin, Jorn, Mindy and Arnaud again before we move back to the States.