Monday, October 26, 2009

Cruising Catania

Ever since we noticed our first 'dancing bus' this summer driving past our house one day, my son has been in love with this particular vehicle. I am referring to the roofless tourist buses that I have seen in other Italian cities as well, that drive around the city for quick and easy access to the main sites. The term dancing bus is not exactly accurate, for on the tour bus itself you will find no music or dancing. But the one that cruised by our house this summer, presumably rented out for an event, was filled with dancing people and blasting music that left an impression on my son and lead to a world filled with 'dancing buses'.

Usually this 'Katane Live' bus line can be seen parked in front of the Porta Uzeda in Piazza Duomo, and if you are walking by, chances are you will be solicited for a ride. For 5 Euros (kids are free) you can take the 50 minute tour and get on and off the bus at 12 different stops along the route. The ticket is valid for the whole day, so for tourists visiting the city it is not a bad way to get to different points of Catania throughout a day of seeing the main places of interest in the city center. 

Despite my son's attraction for the bus, I had never seriously considered taking him for a ride just for the fun of it. That is until a close friend of mine did just that with her 2 year old and reported back the success of the outing. So a few Saturdays ago, with nothing special planned for the morning, I jumped on the opportunity to treat the little guy to a ride on the dancing bus. The day was sunny and beautiful with just a slight breeze, so I wasn't too worried about being cold driving around in a convertible bus. Once in the piazza, we were also tempted by the little tourist train that is another option for getting a tour of the city center. But once my son caught a glimpse of the bus, it was all about the 'dancing bus' and we climbed on just in time for departure.

And off we went. From the start I could tell this was going to be fun and relatively relaxing for mama too. The little guy was content on sitting and kneeling on his seat, looking at all the interesting things contained in a city from up high for a change. We got a new perspective on buildings, fountains, a stretch of the lungomare, piazzas, churches, construction sites and other vehicles (garbage trucks were a fav). And although no music played, we both enjoyed listening to the recorded commentary that piped in whenever we passed an important area or building and I did learn some new tidbits of information. And for non-Italian speakers, with a pair of headphones you can plug in and listen to the information in your language of choice. I particularly enjoyed the views of the long avenues, the chance to soak in all the architectural details (plant-filled balconies, hidden terraces, glimpses of decorated facades) and getting a peek into the city's Botanical Gardens, which apparently you need to make an appointment to visit. 

And exactly 50 minutes later--when we were both feeling ready to get out and stretch our legs--we pulled up, back at our starting point in the Piazza Duomo. This had been a perfect 2 year old adventure, and I couldn't have asked for better company. But as we made our way through the piazza towards our car, the little guy changed direction on me, and was heading straight towards the train ride we had passed up earlier. Thank goodness I was able to convince him to save that one for another day! But no doubt, we will be back again soon to continue our city adventures. 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Some loveliness

Lovely item #1
A large flat envelope from the U.S., addressed to me in the most beautiful calligraphy, arrived today. I looked at it in awe. Who could this be from? What does it contain? But as soon as I opened it, I knew exactly what it was. These are the long awaited cards from Janis, which I won long enough ago to have been completely surprised by their arrival today. This is really due to the amount of time it takes to get mail here in Sicily. For a letter sent by regular post it literally takes weeks. I knew they would eventually make it, so had put it out of my mind completely. What a wonderful surprise and how happy I am to have received these cards which show an example of the talented Janis' original artwork: a linocut of 'Meeting the Wolf of Gubbio'. I never asked Janis who the woman in the print represents, but I am assuming the wolf is the one said to have terrorized the city of Gubbio until it was tamed by St. Francis of Assisi. I love the idea of the wolf being tamed by an animal-loving woman. Could this be Janis herself? I am such a fan of Janis' work, you should really check out her blog!

Lovely item #2 
My sister gave me such a special gift during her visit this summer. She purchased this gorgeous hand painted ceramic tile in Florence by Elisabetta Di Costanzo of Arte Creta and surprised me with it here in Sicily. After some deliberation, I have now found the perfect home for it: on the kitchen wall where it brings happiness to all of us every day, in the room we spend perhaps the most family time in, cooking, playing and of course, eating. I love the colors, the artist's technique and most of all the loveliness of the words at the bottom...'I want my house open to the sun and wind and the voice of the sea and light, light everywhere!!..' Thank you sis!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

So you think you know pasta

Lovers of pasta, Italian food and history, sounds like this book is a must have! Enjoy.

Another photo

New year of blogging, new blog photo.

Quintessential Catanese coast--this shot captures the lovely Isola Lachea just in front of the fishing town, Acitrezza, and part of the mythical Ciclopi islands. The colors and lighting are typical of this time of year. Now that I have kayaked around these islands many times, I know that Lachea is not pure black lava rock, but striated with bright white bands that create the most beautiful patterns, and that seagulls are always perched on the naturally stepped surfaces. I have also read that a special species of lizard inhabits the island, but have yet to see one myself. From Acitrezza there is a fisherman that will give you a ride to the island on his boat--I saw him going back and forth all summer long, leaving sunbathers free to wander, relax and swim in in the clear, emerald green water that surrounds the little island.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

recycling broken bits

This tray may not be not so pretty to look at, but I loved the process of decorating it, it is sentimental, and now functional, too.

See the silver frame surrounding the mosaic filled interior? Well that frame belonged to my grandmother and it contained a mirror until recently. She used it on her dressing table to hold perfume bottles, jewelry and such, which I did as well. This little tray had been left behind in Rome years ago, and I was only reunited with it when I moved back to Italy. But, being that it was hastily and poorly packed on its Rome-Sicily route (was I mad at hubby--YES!), the mirror ended up shattered. I wondered what to do with it for some time. New mirror, a decorative piece of paper, a photo. Many options. But as I looked around at the other things that had also been broken during shipping (numerous ceramics objects--none particularly valuable , but all collected at various flea markets in the many cities I have lived in or visited), I thought of recycling some of those beyond repairable pieces in order to decorate the frame. This would be a mosaic (and my first one, too). Out came the hammer (it is harder to break ceramics into small pieces than I thought) and soon I had laid out a pattern that used both bits of broken ceramic and bits of the original broken mirror.

And now I have my nana's tray sitting on my work table. It holds the tools I use frequently--brushes, wooden sticks, cotton. And it makes me very happy.

In retrospect--colored grout! Or more colorful pieces in the background (my palette was quite limited). Don't love the white on white look of the border...but hey, this is all a process.

happy, happy

1 year of blogging!

I entered into the blogosphere timidly. It took me time to figure out what and why. Now, a year later, the what and why matter much less. I like the people I have 'met'. I like feeling that there is a community out there in different corners of Italy and the world, also sharing their experiences being moms, being expats, being travelers, being creative individuals. It is truly inspiring to be part of that community. Feedback from others is like unwrapping a gift each and every time. Who knew it was possible to feel connected with bloggers without ever having met in person? 

The process of writing down experiences has been a creative exercise time and again that has reminded me how much I do enjoy writing. At times this feeling has been addictive. At other times, I can't manage to focus my thoughts for a new post. But when I do, I feel I am exercising my brain and I get a sense of accomplishment when I hit the publish post button. Important outlets for a stay at home mom who still struggles with not working regularly. 

It is fun to write with purpose. To have experiences I want to describe and share. It is creative documentation. I use the information on posts as references for return trips or for planning activities with visitors. Although there is so much I do not manage to write about, I hope to keep finding the time and inspiration to share at least some of what I discover and learn and enjoy (or not) about living in Sicily in the year to come.

So, for all these reasons, happy blogging birthday to me! And thanks to all you fellow bloggers who take the time to read what I have to say and who inspired me in the first place to start a blog of my own.

Monday, October 12, 2009

t-shirt painting

I haven't been blogging much lately because I have had numerous projects going on that have kept me away from writing, but that have allowed me to release some creative energy in other forms. Like freezer paper stenciling. This is something I read about in the blogosphere some time ago, but never tried myself until recently. I made a secret vow some months back to make only handmade gifts this year. Although I have partially failed already, I have also partially succeeded, making my first stenciled t-shirt for adorable Daniele's 2nd birthday, followed by a set of stenciled onsies for a friend's new baby. And then for no other reason than to fulfill my son's newest passion--that adorable elephant Dumbo--I managed to stencil one of those onto a t-shirt as well. I don't think I would have ever chosen to expose him to Dumbo at the tender age of 2, but when we were away in Trentino it was one of the old videos on the shelf that kept him content on one of those rainy stay at home evenings. And while I remembered it as being sad (aren't all those Disney classics sad?), it does have a happy ending, an interesting (drunken) dream scene, and it also brought back childhood memories of my own--I was definitely a fan of Dumbo and I find the 'classic' (outdated?) aesthetic much more appealing than the new children's cartoons available on cable television. You have to admit, he is pretty darn adorable, and I really got into painting the little fellow. And of course, it is my son's new favorite t-shirt.

Cat nap

I don't know how this little cat managed to fit in this pot filled with dirt and sleep that way all afternoon (it really isn't that big)....

....and even after I woke her up with my picture taking, she just curled right back up and continued her luxurious cat nap.

Maybe I won't be planting the jade plant I had in mind for this pot after all!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October kayaking

After a period of stormy weather, the sun is shining strong, the sky is cloudless, and the water has returned to its clear blue and calm self once again. With this surely short lived return to summer, we jumped on the opportunity for a morning paddle. Since May, my husband and I have become sea kayakers. All summer we diligently headed out to the water, lugging the kayak down the stairs, once or maybe twice a week if we were lucky. Since we have decided we are not hardcore enough to invest in wetsuits and weather colder temperatures in a kayak, this paddle may have been one of our last of the season.

I have been meaning to write about the joys of sea kayaking all summer, but it took me awhile to figure out how to take pictures without risk of damaging a camera. These photos were taken in mid September.

When the time does come to call it quits for the season, I will be sad to store the boat away. This new hobby has really grown on me and I will miss the serenity of our paddles. As we have gotten better at paddling and navigating the water, our journeys have become more pleasant and focused. We usually head towards Acitrezza and the Cilope islands. In the other direction is Catania, more boat traffic but with some dramatic rocky cliffs and caves to admire. No matter which way you go, being on the kayak gives you a whole new appreciation of the coast. I love when we pass the fisherman in their colorful row boats. The ever changing formations of the lava rock. By the islands the water becomes emerald green and in the summer it was crowded with small boats full of people enjoying the lovely spot. Now that summer is over, it feels like we have the sea all to ourselves.

A kayaking outing would not be complete without the reward of a final swim in the sea. The sea is much cooler now, but oh so refreshing.