Saturday, December 22, 2012

You gotta have a fiddle in the band...

There was was a lovely concert at the chapel put on by the Middle and Highschool bands and chorus along with the community chorus.  It was a nice mixture of each section of Holiday songs.  It was nice to see the talented kids come out and show off what they have learned so far.

Ethan plays violin.  He started in fifth grade but he wasn't serious about it.  Now in seventh grade he started back. He's coming along well, though I don't think he really enjoys it like he thought he would.  

My handsome young man.  I cannot believe he's grown so much!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Taormina...A British Holiday Destination

Talk to most people from Britain about Sicily and they will ask, "Did you go to Taormina?"  When I've introduced my grandparents to some of the local Italians that work on base they always state, "Did you take them to Taormina?"

Taormina is the jewel of Sicily.  Taormina is clean.  Not like around here.
This is very common around here.  (photo courtesy of Donald  Curran)
This is Taormina.

Quite a difference.  

We went to Taormina on Sunday.  We left the house around 10 am and arrived there around 10:50 am. There is a toll road and that was easy enough.  The toll was 1.70 euro each way. Someone had recommended a great parking garage right by town.  We found it easily, Porta Catania, and ended up paying 7 euro for 3 hours of parking. (take your ticket and pay on your way back to the car when you are finished).  The garage has free restrooms and you take an elevator to the top floor and you are on the level of the town. The other garage requires you to ride a bus up to the town.  

We walked through the gate of Taormia.  There is a gate on each end of town.   We saw this tiny church on the edge of town and the presepe located inside.  

The tiny church

I think this one is Jesus and Mary Magdalene, but I'm not positive.

A presepe.  The entire town. It was behind glass.

We walked all the way down the main street of town and stopped into a souvenir shop to get a few postcards.  We saw the three big churches and the plaza with a fountain.  

A fountain with a church in the plaza.

Norah pointing out the water in the fountain.

Details above one of the churches
This plaza with this church had benches.  We sat down for a bit and Norah pulled out her princesses to play.  A little Italian girl came up and started talking to Norah and wanting to play with her. Norah wasn't really sure what to do.  The girls mom pulled out a princess from her purse and the two started to play together.  It was a beautiful moment.  They went over the names of the princesses.  It really was a nice cultural exchange. 

While we were sitting there the church bells began to ring.  I'm not sure what it was signaling, but we heard them from two different churches at two separate times.

Church in a plaza with benches  

We walked all the way through town and went to the Greek Theater.  They still use the theater for concerts and film festivals.  

Papaw at the Greek theater

After walking all over the theater we made our way back through town to find a lovely little place to get some gelato.  Gelato is so yummy!

Nana and Norah enjoying some strawberry gelato.

Cody got cookie gelato that came with a cookie spoon! 

After a wonderful day of sight seeing we returned home for some rest and relaxation.  On the way back to the car we spotted a pharmacy with this lovely bad boy machine out side.  Pretty awesome if you are in need of some prophylactics and the pharmacy is closed!  

Super convenient condom machine!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Walking in a Winter Wonderland.

Really it wasn't quite a Winter Wonderland so much as a super fun Santa's Wonderland.  When I hear of Winter Wonderland it includes snow.  There is of course no snow down here, just up on Etna.  It's amazing to me that there can be snow up on that volcano.  Okay, back to the Winter Wonderland.

The base puts together this wonderful thing for the kids. There was Santa.

Norah and Gavin with Santa Claus!

And Frosty!

Even Ben 10~

This guy on stilts was AWESOME!

They had various craft booths for the kids to stop at and make a craft.  Norah and Gavin actually enjoyed doing them.

Though I didn't get any photos, they also had a vendors galore for you to shop at.  Also they had bouncy houses for the kids, but I try to avoid those things, they wear the kids out and end up making for cranky kids.  It was a lot of fun!

Christmas Season!

During the week we don't get around to doing much sightseeing because of all the getting kids to and from school etc.  Friday the 30th of December was the beginning of the Christmas Season around here.  We went and had family portraits done that included all of us!  I'm so pleased to have been able to do that.  Aren't we awesome!?

Curran and Schaal Family
Donald, Ethan, Cody, Sarah, Alice, Norah and Gavin

After our photos we went to the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Piazza on NAS 1.  There was a Christmas song sing-along and they lit up the big tree.  It was great fun!  And it was COLD so it really made it feel like Christmas.

Earlier in the day we were able to get this beautiful photo of Mt. Etna with snow.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Beach

On Saturday after Thanksgiving we took a ride out to the beach.  It was me, Nana, Papaw, Ethan and Norah.  Gavin and Cody stayed home.  It's not fun leaving some of us at home, but we really don't want to rent a big van.  So far it has worked out well.

We took a nice drive down toward Siracusa to the beach.  It was beautiful.

The Ionian Sea

So much space.  In the summer it is packed!

Papaw, Nana, Ethan and Norah

Norah took this photo...not bad for a 3 year old

On our drive back from the beach we did a little exploring driving used the GPS to guide us when we needed it.  This is one of the roads we came up on. 


We enjoyed our drive and spending time together.  

Black Friday...

We put up our Christmas decorations on Black Friday.  We made a quick trip to the Exchange to get a replacement tree. Our other tree was perfectly fine, but it was kind of smallish and looking a little bare.  After I had assembled it, I remembered that we had wanted to replace it.  So Cody and I made a quick trip out to get a new one.  The one we picked up was on sale 25% off.  It's still not all that big, but we like it.

We were able to sell our other tree for $20 to someone that could enjoy it, which made me happy.

We spent the rest of the day at home since Nana and Papaw weren't feeling all that great.  That stinking stomach bug that has been going around keeps making its rounds through us and then back again.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

We had a good Thanksgiving!  We enjoyed our meal of Turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn on the cob, stove-top stuffing, oyster dressing, deviled eggs and rolls.  Plus pies!

I roasted the turkey, breast-side down.  It was so tender that it literally fell off the bone.  It was so very tasty!

It was a pretty good day.  We had our meal.

And Norah cuddled with her biggest brother.

After dinner there was of course a bit of wresting and horse play.

We watched some football and hung out.  It really was great having Nana and Papaw here to celebrate with us, even if I only took a couple of photos of them.  I tend to forget to take those random shots that we all enjoy.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gearing up for Turkey Day!

The last few days have been a little off.  I honestly don't remember what all I did on Monday.  I'm pretty sure we went to the commissary, it seems I manage to be over there every other day or so.  I drove around Motta with Nana and Papaw.  Motta is a little town on a hill and it's amazing to see all the buildings and houses.

Tuesday I wasn't feeling well at all.  I managed to get Norah to school, then made it back home to take a nap.  I was feeling so sick with nausea and tummy issues. I was useless that day.

Today I went to the market in Motta.  I managed to get a kilo of tomatoes, a bunch of bananas, 1 kilo of little oranges (Clementines I think), 1 kilo of green beans and 5 apples all for just over 9 euro or $11.  All of the produce is just beautiful.  I also picked up a Christmas doormat.  I'll get a picture of it later when I put out our Christmas decorations on Friday.  I would have taken Nana and Papaw with me, but they weren't up when I left to take Cody to work and Noah to school.

I started working on some of the Thanksgiving meal today.  I made deviled eggs, 2 pumpkin pies with Ethan's help, a pumpkin cheesecake and oyster dressing.  The turkey is thawed and ready to go in the morning.  I'm looking forward to having a delicious and enjoyable dinner with my grandparents, kids and husband.  I'm so happy to have family here for this holiday.

I'm so looking forward to this very long weekend!  I hope to get some traveling in around the island and show Nana and Papaw some more awesome areas of Sicily.

I'll leave you with this photos of a beautiful rainbow that we saw this afternoon.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chapel and Mementos

We went to Chapel this morning.  Yep, I went to church. It was hard to hear the Chaplain, something about the tone he speaks in and the acoustics of the chapel made it difficult for me to hear him.  His sermon was on Jesus and Government.  It is clear that Christians should follow the rules of the government unless it is very obvious evil.  Easy enough.

Norah enjoyed the Children's moment and then the Children's Church during the sermon time.  She liked learning about Jericho.  The boys stayed home since there is only enough room in our car for 6 of the 7 of us counting Nana and Papaw.

After church we went to eat at the Galley.  I had never been and it was actually pretty good.  We had brunch which included eggs, bacon, pork chops and veggies. I think it would be nice to go over there every once in a while for a change of pace.

We didn't do much of anything this afternoon.  Cody and I straightened up some stuff in the dining room/ office area.  We ate pork roast for dinner, which was quite tasty.  Then after dinner Papaw and Cody watched some football and Nana and I went through one of my boxes of mementos   There were photos from when I was a kid; photos of a ghost hunt me and a friend did in Japan, lots of things from when we lived in Japan.  I came across my 2nd and 3rd grade report cards as well as my 6th grade.  Man, I sure do remember 6th grade sucking and it did; I have the paper to prove it!  It was fun to look through some old things with her.

I'm grateful for this laid back-do nothing kind of day spent with my family.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Massive Fit was Pitched...

I tried to get up early this morning, but I was just too tired.  Cody did get up early and he ran in a race through an orange grove.  I admire that he can drag himself up out of the bed early nearly every morning and run.  Even back when I was physically able to run, I didn't do that.  Boy I sure did waste my good health.

I spent the morning making our Thanksgiving menu and planning a menu for all week and the corresponding grocery list.  When Cody returned from the run; he, Nana and I went grocery shopping.  Papaw stayed home with all three kids.  It was nice to go through the grocery store more slowly than usual and be able to actually shop without worrying about getting home ASAP before one of the kids smacks one of the others.

We managed to get our front porch/carport area cleaned off.  It looks so much better.  Our plan was to go to a bowling party for Cub Scouts today, but Gavin had a meltdown and it was massive.  We decided to not go because we cannot reward such behavior.  It was a hard decision, but one that we had to make.

I needed to cool off from that episode so Nana and Papaw and I went to the Exchange to shop a little.  I picked up some Halloween things for 90% off!  I love a good deal.  I got Norah some dress-up items and a gravestone for decoration.

We had hoped to go fishing tomorrow, but it was decided to cancel because the weather is going to be iffy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

This little mouse went in the teapot...

It never did rain today.  There was snow on Mt. Etna this morning though. 

Cody took the car so I was home all day.  I got a little bit of laundry done.  We had a nice snack of Italian bread, two flavors of olive oil (lemon and garlic), edamame, and several kinds of cheeses.  It was fun to try the different things.  Nana and Papaw enjoyed it as well. 

We had some excitement outside this afternoon.  Nana and I were sitting in the car port this afternoon watching Norah play on her scooter and I kept hearing a scratching sound coming from the toy box.  I started pulling out the toys and there was a mouse! It was a cute little mouse with a long tail.  I couldn't bring myself to kill it, so we tried to catch it!  It ran into a little teapot in the toy box and I used a tennis racket to hold it in.  I walked to the end of the street to set it free and that booger turned around and started running toward the houses!  Papaw as standing in the middle of the street and it ran right between his feet and he kicked that sucker back and it bounced up and scampered across the street and toward the dumpsters!  I think he'll be happier living by the dumpsters than living in our toy box!  Norah laughed so hard!  It was so funny.

This evening Cody, Gavin and I went to a Powder Puff football game.  Four of our neighbors were playing and their team won!  It was fun!

We are supposed to go bowling tomorrow with the Cub Scouts.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

And then the rain came...

I think it's the real beginning of the rainy season here in Sicily.  It rained off and on all day.  It was a half day at school for the boys.  Before picking up Gavin and Norah we went to the thrift store on base.  I picked up some new shirts, a sheet set and some Italian language CDs.  I also picked up a couple of pieces of costume jewelry for Norah.

Ethan stayed over on base after school and hung out and got his hair cut.  He of course did not get his homework done, but hey, what was I thinking?

We had a Tiger Den meeting and it went very well.  We had 7 out of 8 scouts in attendance and we got a lot of achievements completed.  I'm enjoying doing this scout thing again.

We didn't actually do any sight seeing today and we may not be able to get much in this weekend since it is supposed to rain all weekend.  We'll see.

It will be a good time to go through photos and play some board games; you know, quality family time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The mall is the mall is the mall...

After dropping Cody to work and Norah to school, Papaw, Nana and I went to the mall Porte di Catania.  As always the actual destination was to Auchan a grocery/department store.  This was the first time I had ever been there without kids or husband in tow.  It was great since my grandparents were just as curious to check out everything as I was!

We spent nearly two hours just browsing through the store and honestly I could have stayed longer!  I love looking at all the various isles of pastas and cheeses!  They have fresh, frozen, dried pastas; there are all kinds of different kinds of cheese; it is amazing!

I picked up a couple of gifts for a few people and some candy to see how it was and of course it is all yummy!

I did self-check out but it wasn't as easy as in the past since the register would not allow English.  It did Italian and German, but not English.  I tried desperately to touch that British flag for English  but it would not work!  I went with Italian and only had a problem when I scanned the wine; the lady came along and helped me but she wasn't very pleasant about it. It seems that customer service is a lacking skill here in Sicily.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Yet another busy day...

Yesterday we did not do anything much at all.  There is a stomach virus running around base and it seems that my poor Papaw caught it.  He slept away the day and is thankfully feeling much better today.

Norah went to school yesterday, even though her brothers and dad were home for Veteran's Day.  She LOVES school! Her teachers think she is just so very sweet.  I guess she hasn't ever had a meltdown at school, ha!

Today was a busy morning.  I dropped Cody off to work, took Ethan to the orthodontist, took Norah to school, took Ethan to get a flu shot, had a conference with Ethan's teachers and then picked up some milk and other items from the commissary.  Busy, busy day.

Ethan is doing well in school.  In fact all three kids are doing great.  All are well liked by their peers as well as their teachers.  It's nice to hear such praise for these kids.  It makes me feel so proud of them.

I'm truly enjoying having my grandparents here.  I know that it's a blessing to have the opportunity for my kids to get to know their great grandparents.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mount Etna...

This morning we decided to make the drive up to Mt. Etna to see what we could see.  I'm embarrassed to admit that we had not been up there and we've been here over a year.  For shame!

We had a nice drive up there.  We saw the lava stone fields.  It's a dramatic type of landscape.
Lava rock field
Nana and Norah on the steps up to the shrine

The drive was fantastic!  It was beautiful and a little bit foggy so it added to the drama of the scenery.  Along the drive on the mountain we came across a shrine (I think that's the appropriate name for it) so we stopped and checked it out.  It was very well taken care of. We picked up some lava rocks and pine cones.  I plan on making some Christmas decorations with the pine cones.


We stopped and walked around a crater.  What was super fun about that was that we ran into Gavin's teacher!  How fun to say that you ran into your teacher on a volcano!  

 At this stop where you can walk around this crater was a gift shop and Nana went in there while we hiked around the crater.  It was beautiful.

The landscape is unbelievable. 

Papaw up top checking out the view

View from the top

The drive back was pretty nice too.  We ended up driving through lots of towns and seeing lots and lots of people.  I was able to show Nana and Papaw first hand how crazy driving can be around here.  We came back through Catania; I 'm so very thankful for my GPS!  

We had another great day with my grandparents.  We were missing Cody since he had duty today, but it was still a great time. 


Olive Picking...

We could not have asked for a more beautiful day to do our Olive picking.  We enjoyed it very much.  We left the house around 9:15 and got back around 3:30.  A lovely day indeed.  Thankfully a neighbor was able to let Ethan ride with her so we all were able to go.

We arrived out to Mineo and to the farm of Mariska and Emilio.  We had to trek up a pretty big hill to get to the olive trees that needed to be harvested.  Nana and Papaw had a little bit of difficulty getting up there, but they soldiered on and made it up.  They aren't used to so much physical exertion, but I encouraged them to keep going and I think they enjoyed it.  I was cautious with them and their footing.  We had a couple of trips and stumbles, but thankfully no one fell.

We arrived to the top of the hill where there were three trees to be harvested.  They spread a net under the tree and then you pick, shake and generally get the olives off the best you can.  They have some sticks and some rakes and even some battery/electric operated tools to use.

View on the way up to the Olive grove.

Emilio demonstrating how to use a stick to remove the olives.

Using an electric tool to remove the olives.

Norah picking olives

Papaw picking olives!

Ethan picking olives

Gavin picking up the olives from the net and putting them into the bucket.

Ethan behind the olive branches.  

Norah taking a rest.

After picking olives we had a delicious Sicilian lunch at Mariska and Emilio's house.  

Nana getting ready for lunch.

Nana and Papaw eating lunch

Ethan, Cody and Gavin

Spicy pasta 

There was time to sort through the olives; separating the leaves from the olives and pulling out the "not so good" olives.  Norah spent the entire time after eating doing this!  She loved doing it so much.  Mariska said that I should leave her there to help them for the next few weeks.  Mariska even gave Norah a beautiful bar of handmade olive oil soap for all her work!

Norah hard at work sorting olives

She really did enjoy herself

We rode around Mineo so that Nana and Papaw could see it.  We just rode around the perimeter, since getting into the City Center is a bit crazy!  On the way home we of course ran into another herd of sheep. 

Another Sicilian traffic jam!