Friday, March 26, 2010

Blood Oranges

One of my absolute favorite things about living in Sicily is Blood Orange Season.

Before moving here I had heard of blood oranges but had never seen or tasted one.  When I arrived in Sicily I was excited to learn that Sicily is one of the primary producers of Blood Oranges for the world.  They are oh so sweet and juicy and I love love love them!  A few days ago we bought an entire case and have been eating them with nearly every meal - as dessert, as a salad, a snack, you get the idea.

While I was stateside in January and February I found Blood Oranges in Trader Joes.  My mom bought a bag, and while they were not terrible, the did not come close to comparing to Sicilian Blood Oranges.  I am savoring every bite this season because this is my last Blood Orange Season living in Sicily.  I will miss them oh so much!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Four Levels of Learning

A week or so ago I saw a blog post from Rick Sammon, a photographer who blog I read, whose podcast I listen to, and who I learn a lot from. He listed the four levels of learning as related to photography and I wanted to share them here:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence - We think we are kinda good.
  2. Conscious Incompetence - We know we need help.
  3. Conscious Competence - We know we are good.
  4. Unconscious Competence - The level we all want to reach in the things we care passionately about. We don’t really have to think too much about what we are doing . . . we just do it!
I think I fall into Category #2. I have a LONG way to to and a LOT to learn!  What category do you see yourself in? What do you think of this progression? I'd love to hear in the comments!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The colors and textures of Caltagirone

After my discovery this morning I had to go take pictures! It was either that or start re-processing nearly every picture in my photo library. I decided on Caltagirone. Its close and I'd been wanting to go back and explore some of the smaller, less touristy streets. I spent around three hours just wandering.  I had a fantastic time! Once I got home I started processing pictures, and now, many hours later I'm done!  Here is today's perspective on Caltagirone:

Topaz Adjust just rocked my world!

Recently around the web I've been hearing a lot about Topaz Adjust, a Photoshop plug-in that creates awesome effects. I decided to look into purchasing it today and found that I could get a free 30 day trial, so of course I downloaded it.


Here are some before and afters of some of my shots. I'd like to know what you think.









I love the high detail, contrasty, artistic look. When my 30 day trail is up I will definitely be purchasing this software!  Luckily it isn't too expensive, only $49.99.  I don't know how I ever lived without it and I've only been using it for a couple of hours!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Expanding my culinary horizons

So far this week I have tried two new recipes!  This is a sort of record with me, at least for the recent past.  I love to cook but I go through slumps where I just cook the same ol' things or scrounge up my own concoction based on what is in the fridge and pantry.

I desperately want to get back into meal planning but in Sicily its difficult. If I purchase out in town what is in season is constantly changing. I have more success using the best, most fresh products if I buy them first and then figure out what to do with them (hence the concoction method). I only have marginally better success if I go to the Commissary on base.  Counting on what they should or usually have in stock is foolish.  It seems like every time I meal plan and go in with a specific list for a specific set of recipes at least one critical ingredient can't be found. That might be a slight (very slight) exaggeration but the frustration is real.

This week however, I decided to try again using recipes I've been collecting.  After looking over the ingredients I was fairly certain I would find what I needed.  Fingers crossed I headed to the store and found most of the necessary products.

Last night I made Posole.  It was fantastic!  If you want to make it yourself here is the recipe:

Adapted from Cooking Light

This Mexican stew is topped with shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, cilantro, and lime wedges.


  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 1  canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 3/4  cup  finely chopped onion
  • 3/4  cup  finely chopped celery
  • 3/4  cup  finely chopped carrot
  • 2  tablespoons  minced garlic
  • 2  teaspoons  chili powder
  • 2  cups  shredded chicken
  • 3  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2  cup  tomato puree
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  (15.5-ounce) can white hominy, drained

Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Finely chop chile. Add chile and next 5 ingredients (chile through chili powder), and sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook 45 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally.
Tonight's dinner was also delicious, Crispy Fish with Tomato & Leek Saute.  It was nice and light and will definitely make its way to my table again.

Crispy Fish with Tomato and Leek Saute
Adapted from Real Simple


  • 1 slice white bread, torn into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 6-ounce pieces tilapia or striped bass fillet
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into half-moons
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • kosher salt and black pepper


  1. Heat oven to 400° F. In a food processor, pulse the bread, rosemary, and 1 tablespoon of the oil until coarse crumbs form.
  2. Place the fish on a baking sheet. Spread the mustard on top and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Bake until the fish is opaque throughout, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, garlic, and 1/2 cup water. Cook until tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Serve with the fish.
Photos from and  I can't take credit for them!

Monday, March 15, 2010

An afternoon in Catania

I finally got out of the house today!  Since being back in Sicily I've been busy with house stuff and Les has been working hard and studying a lot so we haven't been out much at all.  Today it had to change.  He had the rare day off so we took the afternoon to roam the streets of Catania, cameras in hand.  We had a fantastic time!

As a photographer I've been trying to get more comfortable with taking pictures of random people on the street.  The best way to learn is to do, right? So here are a few "street scenes" from Catania:

Waiting for church to start?
On the steps of the Catania Duomo

The art of doing nothing
Piazza Duomo, Catania

To truly enjoy a day strolling in an Italian city one must stop at a cafe, sip a coffee beverage, and nibble something delicious.  My choice today was a Latte Macchiato and a Calzone.

 Refreshments in Elephant Square (aka Piazza Duomo)

 Traditional-style puppets on sale for the eager tourist

 The gates of Chiesa della Badia di S. Agata

I loved how the fence and the brightly painted car looked together

Shooting from the hip
I just pushed the button on the camera at a random moment and this is what it captured. A motorcycle on the sidewalk, vespas zipping past, pretty typical.

 Still showing the effects of Carnivale
Notice the bit of silly string?

Another thing I love to do while strolling the streets in Italy?  Stop for random glasses of wine.  :)

We ended our evening with a delicious kebab piadine which I should have taken a picture of but I was too busy eating.  On our way back to the car I saw an old lady walking her cat. Wait, what? walking her cat?!?  People were stopping, pointing and quietly laughing as this old lady tried to maneuver her cat down the sidewalk. I turned to go back and take pictures and people quickly stepped out of my way so I could record the moment.

Um, yeah...I think the cat had other ideas than going where the lady wanted to go. Too funny!  And notice the improvised harness - it looks like the wrong end of a dog leash around the neck and a satin ribbon tied around the cat's chest.  Hilarious!

Crazy cat ladies - a worldwide club apparently!

Anyhow, it was a wonderful afternoon and evening. A badly needed trip out of the house and away from base and also good date with my hubbie. I can't wait to go out again!