Monday, January 31, 2011

My Rome: San Giovanni and Piazza Vittorio

Just back from a long weekend in Rome for a little bit of work but mostly just hanging out in a city we used to call home. For me Rome is among the cities I have lived in that still feel like home and for hubby, who lived there for nearly 20 years, even more so as evident by the city map imprinted on his brain (better than a GPS navigator, really!). Once work was over it was great to just walk around the city streets, take advantage of all that this metropolitan, multicultural version of Italy has to offer. We ate Korean, Japanese, British and thin Roman pizza. We entertained the boy at Rome's fantastic children's museum. We saw numerous friends. We relaxed and slept at Nonna's house. We walked through the center of Rome and gawked at the culinary, historic and artistic surprises that can be discovered at just about every turn of the head. And of course we walked through our own old neighborhood, San Giovanni, a few pictures of which I wanted to share on this post. From top to bottom: a section of the fragmented Roman acqueduct which runs through our neighborhood and the Egyptian obelisk just visible in the background; some ladies practicing for the Chinese new year's celebration; my boys walking through Piazza Vittorio.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Morning Colors

I never enjoy early morning wakeups that are not of my own choosing. But with a 3 year old screaming "get up" at the top of his lungs, hiding under the covers doesn't really help. A few minutes of that and no hope of my son suddenly deciding to snuggle in bed with me, I do mange to get my groggy self up, feet dragging up the stairs, water (for my tea) and milk (for my son) warming on the stove, and then the opening of the shutters for a first glimpse outside to see what the day has in store for us. Lately it has been lots of clear, gorgeous skies and spectacular sunrises, and these colorful horizons shake me from my grogginess instantly. A few minutes of ooing and aweing over the glowing rising sun with my little early riser and we are guaranteed a happy morning together. So (dare I say it?) thank you little boy for shaking my lazy bum out of bed! My sleeping in late self is in disbelief at such a thought: rule #1 is we do not in any way want to reinforce the waking up early behavior my son is so fond of these days!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stained glass

Making stained glass together was easy and fun. The boy and I cut out the shapes together from our collection of see through papers. Out came the contact paper, followed by placing them pieces all over the place. The boy wanted to fill every space and at first wasn't happy about overlapping pieces, but he soon saw the coolness of that! A second piece on top, sealed with black tape and that's it. Thanks again to the Artful Parent for the idea!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

plaster sculptures

This project was FUN! Dumping the ingredients for quick setting plaster (water and powdered plaster) into a small bag, tying it shut and letting the kids mix and mash until the mush slowly became solid. Then, out of the bag, and voila your own little sculpture. The kids (and moms) painted a bit, and later on we assembled the crumbled pieces onto a piece of cardboard with a lot of white glue so the sculpture could be put on display. My son likes to pretend his sculptures are ice cream and he runs around the house letting my husband and I choose our favorite flavors!

A visit to Acireale and more on pupi (or Sicilian puppets)

These unusual faces are the heads of Sicilian pupi (puppets) that can be seen at the Museo Opera dei Pupi in Acireale. Carved and painted with such precision, these characters can be beautiful, frightening and downright bizarre. The heads of the pupi were designed to be interchangeable (same body could be paired with different heads depending on the performance), and those seen here are exhibited without bodies. Even some special effects were involved: the one in the photo in the middle (that of a giant) was designed to split open when struck in battle by the sword of a paladino - the heros of these spectacles.

The museum features the collection of pupi that was made and used by the Pennisi-Macri' theater founded at the end of the 19th century, and I think the quality of painting and carving is among the finest I have seen (look at the beard on that fellow!). Thanks to my 3 year old pupi-obsessed son, I am starting to learn quite a bit about the world of Sicilian pupi. Even my American family has had to learn that in my son's world 'pupi' does not mean 'poopy', but we all still laugh quite a bit over that one!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Details from Tindari

From our medieval perch of Montalbano Elicona, we took the slowly meandering road down to Tindari to get a closer look at the Tyrrenhian Sea and explore the anicent site. Down here the weather was much milder and the vegetation more abundant. Of course the first thing that strikes you is the view, always the view!
View of the nature reserve just below Tindari

Then the peaceful walk out of the hubbub around the church in Tindari that is home to the famous Madonna Nera. A row of modern houses line the narrow street that leads to the archaeological site. The people who live there are really residents of the ancient city--the site is their backyard and across the street are rows of rectangular stone blocks that once formed the city's exterior walls.

Once inside the site, we discovered the serene world of ancient Tindari. With few visitors, we had the architectural remains, mosaic floors, thermal baths, fields of clovers, a small museum, an informative and friendly guard, and even a family of playful dogs all to ourselves. We loved it!

Monday, January 3, 2011


A perfect winter themed art group activity -- watercolor painting of doilies, simple folding and cutting to turn them into snowflakes. The paper is quite flimsy so I laminated mine with clear contact paper and they are now are decorating our front door.

Starting fresh in Montalbano Elicona: Happy 2011!

New Years Eve always gives me a travel itch -- a desire to be out exploring and discovering something new. As the midnight hour rings, the beginning of the new year sneaks into being almost unnoticed, overshadowed by the wondrous feeling of being some place new. Detached from normal routines there is no need to focus on the obligatory celebration -- just being out there in the world is celebration enough! And it is with this traveler's mindset that I somehow find it easier to clear my head, reflect on what's passed, and set intentions for new beginnings from a simple place of discovery.
Welcoming a new year from a Medieval borgo in the Nebrodi Mountains: Montalbano Elicona. Some details of our weekend:

A little stone house of our own, rustic and cozy in its medieval dimensions and lack of large windows.

The high altitude meant real winter temperatures and lots of bundling up to explore all there is to see. Like the morning we spent walking through the village's narrow lanes lined by more of those little stone houses, no two alike--some crumbling, some restored--, peaking in the child height windows, peering over terracotta tiled roofs, climbing steep staircases that eventually lead us to the castle door, taking in the breathtaking panoramas visible from all angles.

From up here the panorama is spectacular and includes not only verdant valleys and rocky peaks, but also the Tyrrhenian Sea and the protruding humps of the Aeolian Islands, for these mountains are just kilometers away from Sicily's northern coast.
For these reasons and more, Montalbano Elicona is on the list of Italy's 100 most beautiful villages.
Back home the new year has silently slipped into being, while our family is rejuvinated from a weekend full of new discoveries and much time spent outdoors in the natural environment. We are revved up for a year full of love and joy whether it be at home, with friends and family, or on some travel adventure. We see a young three year old enthusiastically embracing all the new experiences and thriving from the intensity that comes with them--laughing and being together, being out in the world, being creative and free-spirited. Pure simple joy. This is my intention for the new year! HAPPY 2011 everyone!