Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekned

It was so nice to be home with family for Thanksgiving! We had a relatively small gathering, only 7 of us. The food was fantastic! My mom made most of it and was working for about 2 days to produce the feast. I helped a bit, but she did most of it. While she was cooking I made the decorations for the dinner table out of designer papers, a cute leaf punch, and a few ribbons. I decorated candle holders, vases, made placecards and placemats. It was a lot of fun! Here is what I came up with...

Cute, huh?  I'm pretty proud of the result.  :)

On Friday my mom and I ressurected our tradition of Black Friday Shopping!  We stuck to downtown San Luis, which wasn't nearly as busy as the big shopping centers.  We had a great time and came home with a few good buys :) Shopping here is awesome! I just have to pace myself or I will run out of money!

Saturday my mom and I ran a few errands in the morning which included stopping by a yummy bakery for some fresh bread.  Of course we had to have a coffee and morning bun too!  After errands we headed home to make lunch.  My in-laws were stopping by on their way down south to Disneyland.  I thought it was nice of them to include us in their trip even though my hubbie isn't here yet.  We had a nice time and enjoyed a lunch of homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwhiches.  YUM!

Today my paretns are busy doing things around the house and I'm trying to stay out of the way.  I decided to grab my computer and head down to a new coffee shop for my morning fix, some free wi-fi, and to catch up on my blogs and play with my pictures a bit.  I should prbably head out soon.  I have a few errands to run for mom and then I neeed to get back to the house to pack.  We leave bright and early tomorrow morning for San Diego!  We'll stay a couple of nights with my grandma and then a couple nights with one of my aunties.  I can't wait to see everyone!  I get to see my cousin who lives down there too, and hopefully a few old friends from when Les & I lived there.  Of course I will be enjoying a few of my favorite restaurants along the way :)  Don't know when I'll have a chance to blog again, but I'll be taking my laptop down south with me so hopefully I'll have a chance.  Until then, ciao from CA!

A Little Piece of Heaven

Last week, I think it was Monday, I got up super early (as I have most every day since arriving in CA) and decided to go to the beach.  It was a cool, foggy morning. Perfect for a Caffe Latte and a walk on the beach.  I drove into Pismo Beach, parked and walked to a local coffee shop.  It used to be called the Black Pearl when I was a teenager, but it has changed hands a time or two and is now called something else that I don't recall.  Anyway, I ordered my coffee and then made my way down to the pier, cofffee in one hand, camera in the other. It was quiet, not many people around. Just the die hard surfers and shopkeepers getting ready for the day. As I walked toward the beach I passed one of my all time favorite restaurants - Splash Cafe.  They have the BEST clam chowder on the face of the earth!  They also have a kickin' seafood salad.

It was still a bit early for clam chowder so I passed by.  Just a short block later I was on the pier walking out over the Pacific Ocean. It was deliciously cool and foggy, just the way I like it. Perfect weather for a sweatshirt and flip-flops, and of course, a warm cup of coffee. I swear I was in heaven.  I couldn't help but have a big smile on my face.  The few other early morning beach goers looked at me like I was a little bit crazy, or maybe just a little too chipper for first thing in the morning, but I didn't care.

Duh...are people really so dense that they need a sign for this? LOL

The King of his Domain

After I strolled to the end of the pier and back I headed down to the sand. Sand in California is so different from sand in other parts of the world.  It is so soft! (and clean compared to the beaches in Italy).

The Ghost Surfer
(I accidentally left the camera on a 1 second exposure...not bad for an accident!)

My family lives in one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth.  I'm so happy to be here.  I hope I can live here again one day.  This place makes my heart happy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I Made It!

After an excruciatingly long day I am finally back in CA, safe and sound at my parents' house.  I now realize why I haven't been back in two years...the flight is painfully long and customs has a way of really ticking me off.  When we moved over to Sicily we avoided customs by taking a military flight from the states.  Our travels since hadn't taken us out of the European Union so we were able to travel freely with just our passports.  Not so easy when going to the States.  Ugh.  Long story, but I nearly missed my connection in Frankfurt because I was late coming in on my flight from Rome (an hour and a half), had 30 minutes to make my connection in another terminal, and had to go through customs where they had many questions when I said I'd been in Europe for 2 years. I finally made it through, but barely.  I was sure my luggage wouldn't make it but it did!! I said a little prayer when we landed and God came through. :)

Once I made my way through customs (yes, again) at SFO I finally got to see my parents!!  Big hugs and a few tears of joy!  I hadn't seen my mom in a little over a year, my dad in about a year and 8 months.  We piled in the car and began the journey south to my hometown, San Luis Obispo.

We stopped in Gilroy for my first stateside meal - Chevy's!!  Tex-Mex isn't exactly authentic Mexican food, but oh man was it delicious! I dug in with gusto to the chips and salsa and devoured my chile rellano and tamale along with a cranberry margarita. And then, as you probably guessed, I promptly passed out on the rest of the drive.  Jet lag+margarita=good night's sleep.

So now it is my first morning back and I think I might actually have made the time change smoothly having slept all night.  I woke up around 7:30, made some coffee with my mom's bialetti (gotta have my Italian creature comforts!), checked my email (was weird being disconnected for 12 hours on the flight, no email, no texting, felt like my hands were tied!), and now catching up on a quick blog post. So now to fit in all of the things I want to do and all of the people I want to see over the next 6 weeks...I can't wait!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Another busy, but fun weekend

Yesterday Les and I went to feed the poor/homeless in Catania. I haven't done anything like that in years, probably since I was a teenager going with church and school friends. I'm really glad I went.  I was nervous given the language barrier.  Even after two years here my Italian still isn't very good (ah, the joys of living on a military base and having limited opportunities to practice speaking the language) and I wasn't sure what would be expected of me.  Luckily many of the nuns at the mission spoke English and were grateful for the help.  They quickly put us to work serving food. The serving pace was astonishingly fast.  We arrived just as people were being seated for the meal and we were done (cleaned up, floors mopped, tables wiped down, etc.) in just over two hours. I will definitely go back to help out again. The nuns, volunteers, and those receiving the meal were all very nice. I couldn't communicate much with those we were serving but a smile from me brought a smile from them and hopefully I was able to make their day a bit better, even if it was just though handing them a hot meal.

After we finished working at the mission we made our way to one of the few Chinese restaurants in Sicily.  We'd only been there once before - for my birthday a little over a year ago.  The food was delicious and it was a nice treat to have Chinese food, which, unless I make it myself, we don't get very often.

Today was the Craft Bazaar on base sponsored by the local Girl Scouts. There were about 15 local (American) vendors, and I was one of them.  It was awesome to see some of the talent that is usually hidden away in our little community. The Bazaar was a huge success for me.  I sold a lot of cards and artwork and I'm still on cloud nine about it! It is so gratifying when people like my pictures, and even more so when they buy my cards to give to a friend or family or buy a print to put in their home. So cool!

  My Craft Bazaar Table

Tomorrow is Les' and my fifth anniversary.  I can't believe we've made it this far without killing each other ;-) If you read my blog but don't know us personally I will suffice to say that we both have strong personalities and are both very opinionated...or I could just say we are both firstborns.  Power struggle? In my house?  Naw! ;) But with all of our ups and downs its been a good ride so far.  Five years ago I would never have guessed that I would be living in Sicily five years later.  Wow.  Wouldn't have done that without my hubbie. It is amazing the places life has taken us.  Such an adventure!  I'm looking forward to the next five years (and ten, twenty, etc.).

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Olive Picking

On Saturday I joined the Photography Club for an olive picking trip!  We had a great time  learning about the different types of olives, what they are used for, how to pick them, and how they are pressed for oil at the Azienda Agricola Infantino.  On top of all of that we got to enjoy an amazing homemade lunch at the farm.

View of Mt. Etna from Azienda Agricola Infantino

Peperoncini drying in the sun

One of the many buckets full of olives that we picked

This young man worked at the farm and had climbed the tree to reach the highest olives

A lone Prickly Pear

A back lit grape leaf

Almost lemon season, but not quite

This is as fresh as olive oil gets!

The men who work the olive press and farmers from the surrounding area

Pressed Olives

Interesting fact: the olive remains seen above are sold to commercial oil companies to produce the oil that most of us buy in the grocery stores.  This pulp may be pressed 5 or 6 more times, heated, mixed with chemicals, etc. to get every last drop of oil. I only want to buy oil directly from a farmer. The oil coming out of the press above is NOT what we buy at the grocery stores....what we get is usually only a small percentage of the "good stuff".

I highly recommend the Azienda Agricola Infantino to anyone visiting the Mineo area.  This farm will definitely be a place that I take people who visit me here in Sicily.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Things have slowed down...a little

I've been MIA in the blog world for what seems like a very long time (really, its been only a few weeks).  Usually my absenses are just because life is boring and there isn't anything to write about.  However, recently I've been so busy that I haven't had time to write. I have had more on my plate lately than I have since I moved to Sicily. I've gotten used to such a slow pace of life that when things need to move fast it doesn't take much to feel overwhelmed.  So...a brief recap as to what I've been up to:
  • I finished my second to last class for my MBA!!! Only one more to go!  I can't believe I'm almost done.  I'm so excited (and so ready) to be finished.  The grad school equivalent of senioritis has definitely kicked in.  I had a really hard time focusing in this last class.  I got my assignments done, and maintained my grades, but didn't pay nearly as much attention to it as I have in past classes.
  • I photographed my first portrait sitting.  A friend had asked me to take her pregnancy pictures months ago when she found out she was pregnant.  Of course I agreed as long as she understood that I had NEVER taken portraits before and that I didn't have the proper lighting equipment.  The pictures turned out AWESOME!  It really helped that she was an awesome model, though. I couldn't have asked for a better first experience at portraiture. To see the rest of the best check out her blog at
  •  I shared a table at the Autumn Festival on base and sold some of my photo and craft cards. When I wasn't studying for class I was making cards and editing pictures like crazy.  The Festival also happened to be the weekend that I was supposed to be working on my final paper for class.  Yeah, that was a hectic weekend.
  • Last night I was the presenter for Photography Club.  I talked about white balance, a topic that until I did copious amounts of research I knew very little about. Even though I was nervous (I'm not the best public speaker) the presentation went well and  I understand the subject better now. I hope my fellow photog club members do too.
  • In between everything else I was trying to have a social life - Stamp Club, Card Swaps, just hanging out with friends, going out to lunch, and trying to find a bit of time to spend with my hubbie. 
Now that things have quieted down a little bit I am still pretty busy. I leave for the states in just a couple of weeks!  I will be gone for nearly six weeks and I can't wait to see my family and set foot on American soil again. It has been two years since we moved to Sicily and this will be my first trip back home.

Before I leave here are a few of the things I have going on:
  • This weekend we are going on an Olive Picking trip with the Photography Club
  • Next week I do my second portrait sitting, this time for another friend who wants family portraits for her Christmas cards
  • Another craft fair the weekend of the 15th
  • In between the fun stuff I have tons of errands to run like taking the cat to the vet and picking up any last minute odds and ends before my trip.
Whew...I get exhausted just thinking about everything that I've had going on and everything that is yet to come.  But at least it is mostly fun stuff. Beats sitting at home bored out of my mind.  Now that I'm caught up here I will probably start blogging again a bit more frequently, and will of course have much to share while I am back in the states.  Ciao for now!