Sunday, July 27, 2008

Festa Del San Giacomo in Caltagirone

I can't believe the weekend is over already.  I guess time flies when you are having fun, and it was definitely a fun, full weekend.  Friday night we went to Caltagirone with friends for the Festa Del San Giacomo, the patron saint of Caltigirone. We had a really great time, enjoyed the parade, had a delicious dinner, and got caught up in the crowds typical to an Italian festival.  Here are a few pictures from the evening.

These are the famous steps in Caltagirone filled with candles in the shape of the saint.

One of the floats in the parade 


Saturday and Sunday were spent in Padara where Les' band had another gig.  More on that later.  I still need to sort through those pictures so hopefully, if there are any good ones I'll post tomorrow.  Until then, I need to get some sleep.  Buona Notte a tutti.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More fun than studying

Its amazing how easy it is to find things to do that are more fun that studying.  This morning as I was glancing through my Google Reader I came across and article and video from Jeff Revell at PhotoWalkPro about single image HDR processing. HDR processing caught my attention a few months ago, but each of the methods for processing require a program called PhotoMatix, which I don't have, in addition to Photoshop.  Today, as I watched the instruction video I was amazed at what PhotoMatix could do.  I pulled up their website and downloaded the free trial, picked one of my pictures and decided to give the process a go.  Here is the before and after:

Before HDR Processing with minimal adjustments in Adobe Lightroom (White Balance: Daylight and Auto Tone)
 After HDR Single Image Processing
Notice the lovely Photomatix watermark...this indicates that I am using the trial version
Pretty amazing, huh? I love how it gives the photo more drama and brings out the details. This piece of software has just jumped to the top (or near the top) of my wish list. To see the complete tutorial video go to

Ok, now I really need to study.  Three chapters down, two to go. (and that is just for week one reading). Then I get to actually start my assignments, discussion questions, etc. fun fun.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One last escape before class started...

Sunday was my last free weekend day before the start of class. Originally we were going to go to the beach, but decided at the last minute to just head down to Ragusa to do some shopping because we slept in so late.

We left the house after breakfast but forgot to make coffee. It wasn't long before the effects of no caffiene were starting to affect us. I was just groggy, Les had the start of a headache. We decided to stop in Grammichele for a quick caffe but when we arrived it was practically a ghost town. It was a Sunday, after all, and during riposo. We stopped at one coffee bar that had tables and chairs outside and a small handful of people hanging around, but sadly, it was also closed, so we got back in the car and kept driving.

As we neared Ragusa Les' headache had worsened a few notches. We neared a gas station but Les said he'd rather have mall coffee than gas station coffee so we kept driving, thinking we were almost to our destination. It was a bit farther than we remembered. We passed a second gas station, opting again not to stop because we were almost there. Ok, this time we were close. Another mile or so and we pulled off of the highway and into the mall parking lot. We found another ghost town, the parking lot was completely empty. Now, I know a lot of businesses in Italy are closed on Sundays by we had been to this mall before on Sundays and it was always open. Apparently, not anymore.

Now our moods were starting to head south. Les was getting snappy and I was starting to get a headache. We headed to the other mall in Ragusa, a few miles away. When we arrived we were given false hope because there were a few cars in the parking lot. Sadly, this mall was also all locked up! I guess we won't be shopping in Ragusa anymore on Sundays. :-(

We continued driving into the older section of Ragusa, hoping to find a bar and coffee. We parked the car in Ragusa Ibla (the old section) near a ristorante that looked open. We walked around for a few minutes looking for a bar but seeing none open we headed to the ristorante. It was open but not aperto (open for business). I pleadingly asked the man inside who was watching tv if we could just get a coffee and he said "no, mi dispiace" (i'm sorry). Yeah right. I left before I said a few choice words. I was really irritated because he was doing NOTHING! and the espresso machine was right there! ARGHHH!

So, we walked around for a few more minutes, I took a couple of pictures, but wasn't really feeling creative with a screaming caffeine headache and a moody husband.

An old building in Ragusa Ibla

We walked back to the car, looked at the clock and noticed that riposo was almost over. We decided to drive to Modica (famous for their chocolates) and see if maybe we could find coffee there. 9km later we hit the jackpot! After a caffe freddo and a gelato en brioche our moods improved significantly. Any trip that includes a gelato en brioche is not a waste!

After our delicious snack I meandered around a bit and took a few pictures.

An intriguing little ally in Modica, I think I may need to try that pizzeria on our next trip.

Now that we had spent most of the afternoon in search of coffee we were unsure as to what to do next. Everything else was still closed. We decided to head back home. On our way out of Modica I saw a sign for a panoramico and asked Les to turn around so we could go check out the view. We were rewarded with an awesome view of Modica.

A big beautiful church in Modica that I didn't even know was there (something else to check out on our next visit).

A wide-angle panoramic view of Modica

Lovers' Locks on the railing of the panoramico

An old vine-covered building

The other massive church in Modica, and this one is small compared to the other one!

Les, taking in the view

As we were driving back, Les decided to take the road home through Caltagirone rather than through Grammichele. He asked if I wanted to stop anywhere and I said that I'd like to check out the park and gardens. We didn't find the gardens but we did stumble upon this palace/museum. The exterior was gorgeous! The surrounding gardens were unkept, but looked as though they were once spectacular.

Villa Patti

These stone benches were in the courtyard behind the Villa Patti.

I love the cushion texture in the stone

The museum was free so we went in and looked around. There were several ancient pieces that had been found around Caltagirone and upstairs there were displays of more recent art pieces including photography and unique ceramics that looked like wood. Very cool.

So, that was the end of our day. I need to go back and spend more time in Catagirone. It is really close to home and has a lot of beautiful places to visit. Next time I will go to the park/gardens, even if I have to go by myself. I think I know where they are now :)

Now playing: - Trance Tuesday #045
via FoxyTunes

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kathy's Baby Shower

Saturday I co-hosted a baby shower for my friend Kathy, one of my great friends here in Sicily. She is having a little girl, her first child. The shower turned out really cute! Great decorations, cute party favors, and delicious food. Just thought I'd share a few pictures here...

So much food!

Awesome Cupcakes (I made them!)

Playing the safety pin in rice game, officially my favorite baby shower game.

Kathy and Cynthia, two of my best girlfriends here in Sicily

Kathy, enjoying her gifts. This one was a handmade baby dress from a shop in Taormina. It is embroidered with Sicilian pony carts. It was so cute!

Kathy "modeling" some new baby clothes (it just happens to be one of the gifts I gave her. I was sold on the outfit because it came with the cutest little shoes to match!)

I really had a lot of fun working on the shower prep, especially the day before (making cupcakes) and the day of (decorating). I think I will need to plan more parties in the near future...assuming I don't get too overwhelmed with school. I start a new class tomorrow! :-S

Now playing: Norah Jones - Carnival Town
via FoxyTunes

Friday, July 11, 2008

Nothing much, really

Padara, July 6, 2008

I had hoped to have more blog-worthy material during my break from school, but so far it isn't working out that way. Not that I haven't been busy, I just haven't been able to travel and sightsee like I wanted. For one, it is way to hot out. Some days have seen temperatures as high as 108F. Yuck. I've been staying busy, mostly at home or running errands.

Last weekend Les' band played a gig in Padara, a small town in the foothills of Mt. Etna. We had a blast! I only took a few pictures that evening, wasn't really in the creative frame of mind, and none of them are very good. The morning after the gig I was feeling a bit more artsy and walked around the town center for a little while, which is when I took the picture above.

The rest of the week has passed mostly in a blur. Monday and Tuesday I did housework and Wednesday Les got sick. He came home from work with a 103F fever so I took him to the ER. They weren't able to pinpoint anything wrong so they sent him home with motrin around 3 hours later. The next day, Thursday, he slept most of the time and was feeling better by the evening. Unfortunately his SIQ (the piece of paper that lets him stay home from work) expired at 6:30P in the evening. It was his duty day so he had to go to work and stand duty for the night. He didn't sleep well and was feeling awful today.

Today was Ponte Dirillo. Les was supposed to participate by playing taps again on his trumpet but he was so sick he thought he'd pass out if he played. Finally we convinced his bosses to let him go home, only we had to go to medical first...45 minutes past home...and we were about 45 minutes away from home...ugh. We ended up in the ER again for another few hours but this time he got a bit better care. They still don't know what kind of bug he caught but at least they were thorough in examining him. He is now peacefully asleep and hopefully getting better. Thankfully it is the weekend and he doesn't have to work for a few days.

I was hoping to go to the beach or something this weekend but I'm thinking that isn't going to happen. This is my last free weekend before I start class again. Next weekend I am cohosting a baby shower for a friend so I will be busy.

So, in case anyone who reads this blog was wondering, that is what I've been up to. Busy...but not doing anything terribly exciting. Hopefully I'll get out again soon and be able to take more pictures to share. Ciao for now.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

How Californians See America

As I was browsing through Google Reader this morning I came across this graphic. It cracked me up and I had to share. It may not portray my exact thoughts about the rest of Americans (outside of Californians) but it is pretty darn close.