Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nativity Scenes and Delicious food

We have decided that we are the worst at trying to go out and explore on our own so we have made the declaration that we will do at least one ITT (Information, Trips and Tours) trip every month until we have exhausted them.  The ease of letting someone else plan and drive us to see awesomeness is right up our alley.  We've scheduled two for this month.  We went on our first one for December this past Sunday, Dec 11th.

The Description in the "Preview" (that is the MWR magazine that lists the upcoming events) reads like this.
Mineo Nativity Scene & Borgo Antico
Sunday, December 11th
Start the holiday season with a nativity scene in Mineo.  Then savor a big lunch at Borgo Antico Agriturismo where the new olive oil is ready to taste.  
Depart: 8:15am 
Return: 3:30pm

Sounds like a winner to me!  It has a holiday theme and food!  We love the ones that include food!

We caught the bus just outside of housing.  It wasn't 8:15am but closer to 8:30am but one thing I am slowly getting accustomed to is that nothing around here actually starts on-time.  It's very laid back here in Sicily.  The town of Mineo is about a 45 minute drive from here.  There used to be a housing area for the base out there.  The area is still there, but not used by the base any longer.  It is now being used to house refugees from Libya.  It's strange to see houses that look just like ours with windows open and clothes lines hanging out of them with clothes dangling in the wind.

Waiting for the bus to arrive 

Mineo is a little town up on a hill.  The drive up is on a switchback road that is scary for a car (not too scary, but it was for me the first time I drove up there) and even more challenging with a huge bus.  We arrived at the town around 10:30ish.  Our tour guide was named Cynthia.  She is an ex-pat that has lived here in Sicily for 21 years.  She used to be an attendant on the contractor military flights.  (Patriot express; Cat B etc).  She speaks Italian fluently but being American we can understand her; she was awesome.  We had a local tour guide for Mineo named Maria.  She spoke fluent English, so our day was set as far as communication goes.

We disembarked the bus and walked through the archway into the town.  These small towns are not designed for cars.  They were laid out back in ancient times, so there is a lot of walking.  We are escorted to a building that has been opened up for us to use the toilets.  This made me extremely happy.  I don't know where Italian people use the restrooms.  There are rarely any public restrooms and often times when you do find one, you have to pay.  I have bladder issues and a 2 year old that is still potty training; so travel is difficult at best.
We begin our tour by walking through a maze of streets that are steep.  I'm thankful for the tour guide, or I would have surely been lost.  We stop at the first Nativity Scene.  They tell us that the scenes are created by various artists each year.  Each scene uses a different medium.  Some are made out of cork, paper and terracotta.  Now as Americans think Nativity Scene is just manger, Jesus, Mary, Joseph and a couple of shepherds and wise-men.  Here in Italy it's an entire village with workers and houses, fires, animals, rivers.  They are entire scenes that are not Bethlehem.  They are called presepi which translates to crib or Nativity Scene.                                              They were truly amazing to see.  I took a ton of
photos, but they do not do justice to just how beautiful and detailed they really are.  They had moving pieces, such as a blacksmith hammering.  Gavin really loved them. 
 There were 10 scenes in all, but I believe we skipped two.  One we skipped because there was a long line of Italian tourists to see it and we were behind.  One reason we were behind is because Norah had to poop and Maria kindly found us a place to take her and they waited on her and Cody to come out of the restroom.  That was fun.  We were visiting the smallest church in Mineo, which by the way isn't THAT small, and she starts to say very loudly; "I need to poop".  I try to quiet

 her down and tell her that I'm sorry, but there is no potty here.  She then screams very loudly, "I NEED TO POOP!"  Maria asks one of the men at the church if I can take her to the restroom there and we are told no.  Norah starts to whine and cry a little.  She gets distracted as we move on to the next area and she does not have an accident.  She was in a pull-up because I expected something like that to happen.  She held it until Maria did find us a place at a museum for a local author.  Cody takes her in and of course there is no toilet paper or towels or anything.  I have got to remember to pack wipes and toilet paper in our day packs.
The church where Norah needed to poop.

After all Nativity scenes we walk back to the bus and head over to Borgo Antico Agriturismo for lunch.  We kind of knew what to expect from this place.  We had been told about it by several people.  One of our friends had called it a "marathon of food" and he wasn't off.  Agriturismo is a farm and restaurant where nearly all the food you are served is grown there on the property.  At Borgo Antico it is 80%.

Now if you've not had a traditional Italian meal, it is something.  There is so much food brought out you would think they were feeding three times the number of actual people.  It starts with antipasti which is appetizers   They served us cheese, olives, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, eggplant, more cheese covered in jam and salami.  ( I think that is all of it, there was so much). 

Antipasto plate
 Then comes the pasta.  They served us tube pasta with tomato sauce and roast beef. I've never had roast beef with pasta like that and it was divine.  
Next was meat.  There were chicken thighs that were so tender and delicious.  Also sliced veal with gravy.

  Somewhere in there was broccoli and these fried mashed potato things.  Oh yeah and two kinds of egg type dishes.  I mean there was so much food coming out I could barely keep up with just taking the pictures.  There was a soup dish that was little pasta with beans.

Then a salad. 

And finally desert.  The desert were ricotta cheese pastries and oranges.  

Also our meal was accompanied by bottled water and table wine (which is one of Cody's favorite). 
  Man it was awesome.  If anyone comes to see us while we are living here, I'm definitely taking them there to eat.  So if you are thinking of coming over to visit, you have that place to look forward to!

Norah only made it through the antipasto.  She ate a lot of bread and some of the egg dishes and then she was ready to nap. We let her lay on the floor on a cushion they had brought out for her to sit on and covered her up with the blanket we brought.  She was content to nap in the corner.

The boys weren't as adventurous with their food choices.  We were at a huge, long table and they were close enough to us to be able to force them to try more.  Next time we'll enforce a bite of everything.

We rolled ourselves out of that place and made our way to the bus for the quick trip back home. We arrived back about an hour and half past the originally planned time, but that was okay with us.  We didn't have anything else planned for the day.  It was a very fun trip and  I really enjoyed myself.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Playing catch-up

So much for being on top of this thing.  I didn't write here everyday in November like I had planned, but I did manage to write a thankful status update every single day of November on  That's one small victory for me. I'll try again next year.

We had a great Thanksgiving day.  We roasted our turkey upside-down (breast down).  It was succulent and juicy.  We all sat around the table and talked about what we were thankful for.  We spent the time off chilling out around the house and watching a lot of tv and movies.  It was a joy to be with each other and just relax.

This month is busy as most Decembers usually are. Friday the 1st we went to Midtown on NAS 1 to see the Christmas tree lighting.  They sang songs and then lit the tree.  I discovered just how much Gavin does not enjoy crowds.  He reminds me a lot of Cody.  Sometimes I forget that they all aren't just like me, they have their daddy in them too. Hahaha.  He wasn't happy in the middle of everything, but once we moved to the side where it wasn't crowded, he was much happier.

Ethan and Norah at the tree lighting

This past Saturday morning Ethan spent about an hour and a half distributing bags and fliers for a  Troop 53 Scout project.  One of his fellow Scouts is working on his Eagle project. The young man is collecting canned food to donate to a local food bank in Catania.  After he was finished with that we headed over to NAS 1 again.  The NMCRS (Navy Marine Corp Relief Society) that runs the thrift shop on base had a shopping event for children.  They had volunteers to escort the children into the shop and help them purchase items for their family and friends.  The boys loved it.  It didn't occur to us to send Norah in there, but we could have.  There were little ones younger than her that went in.  Next year we will definitely do that.  All of the items were priced at $1, $2 or $3.

We managed to wash the car (boy was it ever dirty), trim the tree in the front yard and put up the Christmas lights outside.  I was surprised at how productive our Saturday actually was.

Gavin attended at birthday party at the bowling alley Sunday.  It was all I could do to convince him to go.  He likes playing with other kids and enjoys it once he's there, but he would much rather stay home.  We are working on getting him more involved with outside activities.  I'm not forcing, just encouraging.  He ended up having a great time.  We didn't know what to buy the little boy so we opted to give him $10 cash.  He seemed to like that.

While I stayed with Gavin at the party, Ethan, Cody and Norah went to see "Happy Feet 2".  Ethan was the only one that actually got to watch the whole thing.  Norah wasn't happy in there so she and Cody ended up back at the bowling alley with me.

Cody and Gavin were super happy to see the Falcons on tv last night but sorely disappointed in the performance of the team.  They both were yelling at the tv.

This next week is pretty busy too.  Ethan has his musical performance this week.  Then next weekend we are going on a trip with ITT.  I love the Holidays!