Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Few More Cards

Still playing with my new stamping toys but I think its time for a break. I just realized its after 1pm and I hadn't even thought about lunch...or getting out of my PJs. I really do have other stuff that I need to do today!

I still need to find a better way to line up text as I stamp it. I always stamp words crooked. Oh well. Hopefully I'll get better!

Now playing: Dixie Chicks - Some Days You Gotta Dance
via FoxyTunes

Stampin' Fun

I've discovered a new obsession! Stamping and card making! My friend Sheena took me to a card making party a couple of months ago and I loved it! Then earlier this month, she hosted a Stampin' Up! Party and I dove in head first, ordering a ton of supplies. I got my order last night and have been playing with my new toys all morning. I'm still trying to get the hang of it, but for just starting out I'm pretty happy with what I've done so far. Here are my first three:

I really like how the flower turned out on this one, but I wish I would have done the flourish in the bottom left a bit differently.

I think this one is my favorite so far today.

I like this one too, but I think I wouldn't add the white accents to the purple flower next time. But overall, I really like how it turned out.

Sheena, you released a monster! I'm having a lot of fun with this and can't wait to order more stuff. Les is going to have to hide my wallet, I think. :-D


Now playing: Garth Brooks - The Cowboy Song

via FoxyTunes

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Getaway to Lipari

This past weekend Les had Friday off so we decided to get out of town for a bit to the Aeolian Islands. We stayed on Lipari Friday through Sunday and had a fabulous mini vacation. We drove up to Milazzo and then took a Hydrofoil to the island. After a brief lunch we set off to find our hotel in hot humid weather. It wasn't far but we were happy to have a bit of a reprieve from the heat and relax for a bit before setting out to see the town.

The view from our hotel room at the Hotel Bouganville

A few shots in and around Lipari Town:

The next four pictures are actually murals painted on the side of buildings. They were life sized and very realistic.

After walking around Lipari Town we set out to find the beach, which we were told was in the nearby town of Canneto. We didn't have our bathing suits with us (they were at the hotel) so we walked along the waterfront, enjoyed gelato and the beautiful scenery.

On Saturday we went in search of scooter rentals. The first place we stopped had reasonable rental fees but wanted a cash deposit of 100 euro per scooter. They wouldn't just hold our credit card number. We didn't have quite that much on us (and even if we did we had other uses for it) so we moved on. A little ways down the street I spotted this tiny little two seat car, kind of a cross between a go-cart and a Smart Car. I decided that was what I wanted to rent. That way we could be together and chat as we explored the island. A few short minutes later (and much more reasonable deposit payment) we were off! As we circled the island on the main road we were able to glimpse other islands in the archipelago.

I this one was Salina, but don't quote me on that.

Les and our cute little car! (He really enjoyed driving it!)

Looking down on Lipari Town

After we finished our circle of the island (which only took a few hours at a very slow pace) we headed back to Canneto, suited up for the beach. Our first stop was at a local dive shop to purchase masks and snorkels. Excited and ready to cool off we found a Lido (which happened to be free) and headed for the water. Les decided to go back for his shoes and I started splashing around and getting the hang of using the snorkel.

All of a sudden I felt what I at first thought was Les pinching my arm. I turned around and got "pinched" on the other arm. I freaked out when I realized there was no one nearby! I got out of that water as fast as I could, both of my arms really hurting by then. I didn't know what had gotten me but it hurt like hell! There was no way I was getting back into the water.

Les was dying to try out his snorkel too but he was skeptical about diving in considering the pain I was in. After he made sure I was ok he decided to slowly wade out into the water and see if there was anything out there. Sure enough, he came back a few minutes later and said he saw a lone jelly fish, probably 2-3 inches around with tentacles about 4-6 inches long!!!! EWWWY!!! I had been stung by a jelly fish! I have been swimming in the ocean all of my life and have never (until now) been stung by a jelly fish. And let me tell you, it wasn't fun. It hurt for HOURS! Now (five days later) I still have marks from it.

The afternoon wasn't a total bust though. We did enjoy the lido, the warmth from the sun, reading, and listening to the gentle splash of the water against the shore. It was still a lovely afternoon, even though my arms hurt.

Later that afternoon we headed back to the hotel to clean up from the beach, then it was time to return our little car. We ended up walking around Lipari Town some more and visiting some of the historical sights.

Looking up at the Cattedrale di San Bartolomeo in the city's Citadel

After the sun went down we went in search of food and wine. We spent some time at a cafe drinking wine and listening to some live music. Later that evening we went to another ristorante for dinner that I had seen earlier. It had given me "warm fuzzies" and I knew that was the place for dinner. It was FANTASTIC!! After dinner we went back to the cafe with the live music for a bit. Since I had already had plenty of wine I had a granita (kind of like a slushy). Eventually, quite late, we made our way back to the hotel and crashed out for the night.

Sunday morning it was time to get our stuff together and get ready to go. I didn't want to leave!! But we had to, so after a delicious breakfast at the hotel we hoisted our backpacks and set out to the ferry dock and bought our return tickets. We had about an hour to kill so we bought a few edible souvenirs (capers in salt and olives) and stopped for a coffee. Too soon we had to leave. Lipari was so much fun and such a great place to relax. Even though our trip was short it still felt like a real vacation. I needed that, so much.


Now playing: Paul McCartney - The Long And Winding Road

via FoxyTunes

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Housewarming Party

One of Les' coworkers is retiring soon and they decided to spend their retirement here on the island. They bought a house in Mineo and invited us up last night for a housewarming party. Their house is awesome! It is about 200 years old and they've done an amazing job fixing it up. It looks old and worn on the outside, like most of the buildings in Sicily, but inside it is lovely. They even have a terrace on the third floor, and that is where we spent most of the evening chatting with friends, listening to the church bells, and when the sun went down looking at the stars.

The view from the terrace at sunset, overlooking the valley where we live

Looking down on a nearby house. I think its for sale. Cheap. Any takers? Its a nice fixer-upper.

The coolest part of their house is the garage. Being that the house is around 200 years old (maybe more) it was built to house animals. There are rings in the walls to tie the animals, a dirt floor, and even an old well! The garage doesn't have electricity so the next two pictures were taken in the dark with only my trusty flash.

The very deep, kinda creepy well

Looking in towards the garage from a side door. I think this gate has been there awhile.

I really enjoyed just being out in town and away from military housing. I'm so jealous that they are going to live there! It was more along the lines of what I expected for living in Italy...not military housing, but oh well. At least I get to have the real Italian experience once in awhile.


Now playing: Magnatune - 2008-05-25 New Age podcast from Magnatune

via FoxyTunes

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Just a quick post - I really should be studying but playing with my pictures and blogging is so much more fun! I just wanted to share a few pictures from yesterday afternoon and evening. Les had another gig and I tagged along. While the guys were setting up I wandered around the garden with my camera and took a few pictures of the flowers and plants.

Exposure 1/160 sec at f/5.6, ISO 100, Focal Length 55mm

Exposure 1/400 sec at f/5.6, ISO 100, Focal Length 55mm

Exposure 1/125 sec at f/5.0, ISO 100, Focal Length 43mm

And this one is my favorite. I love how the leaves are back lit by the sun and seem to glow.

Exposure 1/200 sec, at f/5.6, ISO 100, Focal Length 55mm

I only knew a small handful of people at this party, and most of those I didn't know well. To amuse myself I took a lot of pictures of the band. Most of them didn't turn out very well because the lighting wasn't good. I was playing with my shutter speeds and other settings on my camera to try and avoid using my flash. The boys played very well last night! Probably their best gig yet that I've been to.

Exposure 1/2 sec

It Doesn't Matter's littlest groupie

The Ghost Band
Exposure 6 sec

Me and the Band (Les, Terry, John)

Ok, hope you enjoy the pictures. Now I really have to get to studying. Blah.... (but I'm almost done! Class is over on Monday!!! WOOHOOO!!!)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A picture is worth a thousand words

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me last night. Les and I went into Catania to run a couple of errands. There were two distinct moments that I wish I had my camera, though even if I did the moments went by so fast I doubt that I would have had a chance to click the shutter.

Moment #1: As we were driving into a roundabout I noticed a scooter. Not just any scooter, but a scooter with two people...wait for it...and their DOG! And not a small dog...a big white long-haired dog! It was just chillin' between the two people on the scooter. And I should point out that it wasn't a large scooter.

Moment #2: As Les and I were loading the car after we made a few purchases we heard a racket and glanced into the street. We saw two people on a scooter. The person on back was pulling a shopping cart! The poor cart was having trouble keeping its wheels on the ground at the speeds they were going, it nearly fell over several times as they went by! I nearly fell on the ground laughing! Seriously....what do they need with a shopping cart!??!

And that, my friends, was my entertainment for the day. Who knew all of the things a person could do with a scooter! Who needs a truck or a big car when you can take your dog with you on the scooter. And maybe the shopping cart thieves just wanted to do some shopping and needed a way to carry their groceries home. Sicilian ingenuity? Definitely not something I would see in the States, for sure.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Catching Up and Counting Down

Blogging, photography, and really anything fun has taken a backseat lately to school. Right now I am in MBA 550 - Resource Optimization...and it is just as boring as it sounds. I'm counting down though, only 8 days of class to go! Then I plan on taking a long break, at least a month. I think I have the grad school equivalent to senioritis. I had it in high school, I had it in undergrad, and it has hit with a vengeance again. I'm so burnt out on school. If I didn't have just three classes to go after this one I would be seriously reconsidering finishing the degree. I just have to keep telling myself that I'd regret after a break I'll keep plugging along.

Today, though, I had a rare bit of free time. I met up with a couple of friends for cappuccinos and pastries out in town. It was so nice just to get out! On the way to meet them I had a spectacular view of Etna. I decided to take a brief detour and drive up into the hills to grab this shot.

Mt. Etna and the Sicilian Countryside
Exposure 1/100 sec at f/11, ISO 100, 75 mm

I wanted to stay and take a few more shots, but bugs were attacking me. I literally had thousands of gnats and flies swarming all around. ick ick ick. I took a couple of quick pictures and then jumped back in the car.

After coffee I ran a few errands and then drove home via a road where I had noticed a good photo opportunity the other day. This time there weren't nearly as many bugs. The wind had picked up significantly. The breeze felt cool and wonderful on this warm day (about 85F).

Sicilian Hay
Exposure 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 55mm

So, that is the extent of today's adventures. WILL get out and see more and have more pictures to post as soon as I finish the darn class! Wish me luck..this next week may do me in!