Thursday, December 27, 2007

We made it home....

Me, barely though. :) I'm talking about our Christmas trip to Rome. Rome was beautiful, but personally my trip could have been a lot better. We left on Saturday, and I was feeling a little sick, but of course with all the nonreturnable money we had spent on this trip, I was definitely not going to stay home.

On Sunday I started feeling a little bad. My kidneys were hurting, yeah that was all I needed walking around Rome. Monday was somewhat tolerable, Tuesday during the day was really starting to get to me, and that was the day we did the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica, so obviously I didn't get to enjoy them too much. By Tuesday afternoon at the hotel it was getting worse, and by 6:30 I couldn't handle it anymore.

We went to the Italian ER where I was in pain for a while, but they labeled me with "green" importance, so I waited forever. Thankfully the worst of the episode didn't last too long, and I was able to sit around in only a little bit of pain. They finally saw me, and gave me an iv with fluid and painkillers, ran a few tests, some x-rays (they thought I had kidney stones,) and told me, "yeah you have an infection, but we don't know what." I think they did know, actually and just didn't want to give me their antibiotics since I would be leaving in two days. Which surprisingly I'm not mad about, because health care is free for Italians, and I don't think it very highly funded. They probably knew I would make it home okay, and wanted to save the antibiotics for someone with greater need.

I was somewhat shocked at the ER. They had it set up like a triage, with a good 20 to 30 people crammed into one room, with no dividers, that I had to walk through do get to the bathroom to do my urine test, which even their instrument for that was a little plastic drinking cup. Nice. I knew I had a kidney infection, and if I knew they HAD to know it. Both my doctors and my tour guide (who was translating for me when she could be there, she kept having to go back and forth from me to the group) kept asking, "How do you know it's your kidneys? " I wanted to say, "Because I F'N know where they are, and they F'N HURT!" I guess Italians maybe aren't too keen on listening to their bodies, because they were surprised that I seem to know something about my own body.

Anyway, they offered that I could stay there for the night, with more pain killers, I said no. I wanted to get back to the hotel, not be in that run down room without my family for any longer. Unfortunately, because of this I was unable to attend midnight mass, which I had been so excited about. Oh well.

I was fine all night, but around lunch the next day, the painkillers were wearing off, and I was beginning to get miserable. Tony walked to probably the only farmacia open on Christmas and brought some over the counter pain killers for me. (My Hero!) I lived on these until we headed home yesterday. And when we arrived at the parking lot where our car was, we ran into it and headed to our ER, where I was in heaven. They didn't doubt me for a second, immediately gave me some painkillers and fluid through an IV, ran some tests, and pretty soon had me on the antibiotics that I knew I needed. I was so relieved. We stayed there for a few hours, then headed home, where I thought I would be able to get a good night's sleep, but unfortunately I was still being attacked with cold chill and intense fever episodes which made my night pretty miserable still.

Anyway, so I will post about Rome later, because I need to get the MOMS Club newsletter done today, and I know the Rome post is going to be a very long one.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My week with our First Guest Ever...

My new friend, G, arrived last Saturday. I say my "new" friend, because actually I had never met her before, until we picked her up at the Catania airport. She is my mom's friend's daughter, and when my mom had told me that G was taking a Eurotrip, I told her she could definitely stop by our place here in Sicily. I was excited to help G out, to give her another stop on her trip, especially to Sicily, where there is so much history all around. But I was also excited for myself because I knew that having a guest would force me out of my routine and comfort zone, which it did.

On Sunday, Tony and I took G to Niscemi, the town near where Tony works. There was supposedly a culture festival, (that Tony swore he'd seen a poster for) but when we arrived in town, nothing out of the usual was going on. So we stopped at Bar Fortuna where our friend C works, and even he said, "An event? On Sunday? No way!!" and just laughed. So we enjoyed tea and cappucini. Afterwards, we went in search of food, but weren't able to find anything open. So we had to run to Tony's work to eat his stocked up frozen veg food, and whatever chips and such that we could find.

After leaving there, we had decided to go to Agrigento to see the Valley of the Temples, but after realizing what time it was (almost 4:30) we knew we wouldn't get there in time before it closed. So, we went to nearby Caltagirone instead. We found Scale di Santa Maria del Monte, which is a set of stairs with 142 steps tiled with hand painted tiles (no two are alike.) They had a nativity scene set up, so it was a very pretty sight. In the piazza there was some sort of Christmas celebration going on with live music and tables set up by people selling things, or looking for donations for their charity work. We went inside a building that turned out to be an art & culture center, and as our luck would have it, a Pupi show was scheduled for 5:30. So we stayed and people watched until the show began. Afterwards, we headed home as we were all cold and tired of walking around, up, and down the hills of Caltagirone.
Scale di Santa Maria del Monte
Two Pupi Fighting
On Monday, after getting G set up with a base pass, we headed out to Catania for a little sightseeing. We took G to see Elephant Square, the church, and our friend T even showed us a Greek theater that Tony and I had never seen before. It got dark fast though, and I needed to study for my accounting final, so that trip was cut short.
Part of the Church:
It was so pretty with the sun setting.
The back of the Greek Theater with city buildings and traffic all around.
Tuesday, I took my final early in the morning, which went pretty well. (I ended the class with a 93!!!) After I got back home, we decided on our first day trip with me as the driver and tour guide. We decided on Syracusa, which I wasn't nervous about much, since I had driven there before. The drive was nice, since it was filled with welcomed conversation. When we arrived in Syracusa, we followed the signs to the Greek Theater, and were not disappointed with it. It was beautiful, and soooo awesome to see. I was so in awe of the theater and of the surroundings, it was truly breathtaking. Right next to the theater is an archaeological park with the Ear of Dionysius. The pictures I had seen of this cave do not do it justice (mine don't either.) This cave is amazing! It's huge, and it's shape is so interesting, and from the inside looks like an upside down cavern. It was amazing! The surroundings were so peaceful, with the garden/orchard like setting with the quarry in the background. It was a nice relaxing walk.

After that, we headed to the Papyrus museum, which ended up being closed. So we decided to head out to Ortygia Island. Driving there was a little tight, roads were so narrow, but we eventually found a parking space. We walked the whole island in probably about an hour. We found the Fonte Arethusa, the Duomo, and the Papyrus tree that grows behind the Aquario. We enjoyed the walk and G really loved the sea side scenery in this town.
At the Greek Theater:
The Ear of Dionysius from the outside:
From the inside (see the grown man walking out for perspective on size.)
My favorite picture from the inside:
Duomo at Ortygia Island:
After getting home, we found out that the truckers had gone on strike, and that the gas stations were out of gas!!! And we only had a little over 1/4 of a tank, which would get G to the Catania bus station on Friday, and us back home, but that would be it. I was so disappointed since I thought I wouldn't be able to take her anywhere for the rest of her trip. Wednesday, we ended up making the best of the situation and hung out at Angie's house, watched Because I Said So, snacked on popcorn, and drank some really yummy apple cider. It was a nice afternoon, and G had mentioned that it was so nice to just do something American since she hadn't in 3 months. I hadn't thought of it that way, until she put it like that. I loved G's constant optimism. :)

Thursday morning, my dear husband called me from base to tell me that he had heard that the Esso gas station near our house had received a delivery that morning. So, of course, I raced out the door to check, and when I drove up I was so relieved to see that there was no signs on the gas pumps, and the station was busy.

With a full tank of gas, we headed out for our next day trip: Agrigento. Probably my most favorite place I've been to on the island, yet. I could never get tired of going to Agrigento. It is just so incredible to see the temple ruins. G shared my feelings, I think. It was a perfect day to go, too. Sunny and warm enough to not need a sweater, but not to warm to be uncomfortable with all the walking. There were hardly any people around either (likewise in Syracusa as well,) so we had the whole place to ourselves. We enjoyed it. We were going to stop by Piazza Armerina on the way home, but decided not to, as we were all quite tired.

Friday was G's last day here. I had intended on taking her to the Mineo Market (as Angie and I have been going each Friday lately,) but Tony had scheduled a legal appointment that his work has been on his back about for our normal market time. So, thankfully, Angie (being the wonderful friend she is) took G along with her, since she was still going anyway. So, they got to have fun, while Tony and I sat through gruesome scenarios of our various orders of death, and whose will would end up being used... What a nice start to the day.

After getting home and eating lunch, we headed out to Palermo, where G would be flying out of that night. The main thing we wanted G to see was the Catacombs. When I told her about it, she mentioned seeing a show about it on tv once, but never thought she might see it in person, so I knew she just had to see it. She was definitely a little freaked out I think, but excited at the same time, lol. The same feelings I had the first time I went. It's such a sight, and it makes you wonder why they wanted to preserve their bodies, who these people were, etc. So many thoughts go through your head while you're jumping at catching a corpse's scary expression, or turning and seeing an arm reaching out at you. I wish I had pictures, but no cameras are allowed. :( I really think G liked the catacombs though. She said she was excited to be able to tell her brothers about it. :)

Afterward, we drove around trying to find something to eat. We ended up passing by a huge church, so we decided to park and walk back. It was such a beautiful church to see at night. It was huge! and lit so beautifully. I took a few pictures, but not many came out since it was so dark. I wish I had brought my tripod, then I could have just left the shutter open, and they probably would have come out better. We're definitely going to have to go back. After looking around there, we walked around and found a little pizzeria to eat at, then headed to the airport, and said goodbye to G, our first ever guest here in Sicily.
Part of the Church:
A funny Pic:
G tried to take a pic, but accidentally hit the timer button, so we were waiting, then struck a pose lol :)
I had a blast showing her around, and I really hope she had a good time here.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A mini adventure in Mineo

Friday, my friend Ang and I decided to go to the market again. Tony was off so, I was able to leave Carlee at home... So I took my camera instead! :) It was a little chilly at first, but we knew we'd warm up as we walked around. We parked right outside the market, and first went to find a bakery in town that Ang remembered seeing before. We found it pretty quick. The fresh baked breads smelled wonderful. Too bad they used milk and egg in all of them. I wonder if she'd take special orders? hehe.

Then we headed back to the center of town and had a hot drink before our trek back to the market. We've decided to try a different cafe every week. I don't remember the name of the one we went to, but this one had good music. My te caldo was good, I mean, who can mess up tea? :)

While we were walking towards the market on the cobblestone road, I noticed a gift shop so we went and took a look. I found a few things I think I'm going to go back for, little souvenirs, and knick knacks, etc. They also had some pretty paintings of Mineo. As we were leaving, the store owner asked us if we were here for the "Presepi," the nativity scenes. We asked her if it was today, and she said, yes and that we should find the kids and follow them. Apparently there was a field trip, so we decided to tag along. Many towns here in Sicily have this celebration at Christmas. People throughout the town put together huge nativity scenes, and display them. They were beautiful. We were able to see two, before finally deciding to head back to the market before all of the vendors packed up.

We walked around the market, and I ended up with ribbon I needed for my ornaments and some fruit. I'm such a big spender. haha. Actually, I just never know what to get, because I don't know what I'm going to be cooking soon. I should just start meal planning. Then when I go to the market I would know exactly what I need. But like I'm going to do it. .... .. .

Anyway, here are some more pictures from the day:
The town put up some Christmas trees in the piazza.
A view of the market from above:

Walking through town... Imagine living this close to so many neighbors!
The men were cheesing it up for the camera today:
This guy asked for a photo, smiled, then said wait while he searched for the perfect sample to hold up. Then he said wait again, and he unfolded it. Wait, and unfolded it again. Wait, and positioned it juuust right. Okay, photo! I was so amused, LOL. Too funny....

We had a great time, and such good luck with the lady telling us about the presepi. I was so glad we got to see them, it made my day extra great.

Today, we have our first guest flying in today. I'm excited to show her around! I'll be taking plenty of pictures hopefully. :) Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Chri'tmas TIME!!!

"It Chri'tmas TIME!!!" That's exactly the reaction we heard when we plugged in the Christmas tree last night. Yes, that's right... I finally convinced Tony to go get it out of the storage unit. hehe. Carlee's reaction was priceless and completely melted my heart. She was jumping in excitement around the tree. I took these pictures without the flash so that you could see the lights, with the flash on it looked like daylight. :) I couldn't stop smiling last night.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Play Dough Recipe

Carlee's been playing with her play dough all afternoon again. She's really enjoying it. At least it keeps her busy, and lets me get some housework done. :) I've had the recipe for a while, since last year some time when my friend put it in our MOMS Club newsletter. I don't know why I waited so long to make it for her instead of buying new play dough that dries out so fast. It's great too, because the color doesn't come off of the play dough! Here's the recipe if anyone is interested:

Play Dough
1 Cup water
1 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Salt
1 Tbsp. Cream of Tarter
Food Coloring
1 Cup Flour

Combine water, oil, salt, cream of tarter, and food coloring in a saucepan. Heat until warm. Remove from heat. Add flour. Stir, then knead until smooth. Store in airtight container or freezer bag.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sugar Cookies for Carlee!

This morning started out early, with me almost deciding to ignore the alarm clock. I thought of the fun Carlee would have today, and it forced me out of bed. I headed downstairs and made her holiday sugar cookies: snowmen, stars, bells, angels, and gingerbread men galore. I got Carlee ready and gathered the cookies and we were off to decorate with friends. She had a blast! Of course. I got a few laughs for bringing my own cookies, but also a few inquiries about how I had made them, and what substitutions I used. Interestingly enough though, after eating one and a half cookies with a little bit of icing on it, she handed me the second, saying, "I don't want anymore." A little too sweet, maybe?

The recipe I used was one I found on and then altered it to the following:

Vegan Sugar Cookies For My Little Carlee to Decorate
3 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup non-hydrogenated margarine (or another butter substitute)
1 1/2 Cups Natural Sugar Cane
2 Tbsp Soy Flour + 2 Tbsp water (to replace 2 eggs)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. Cream together margarine and sugar. Beat in egg substitute one half at a time. Stir in vanilla. Gradually blend in sifted ingredients until fully absorbed. Cover dough. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheet. On clean, floured surface, roll out small portions of dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes.
4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
5. Decorating with icing/candy of your choice.

These turned out a little chewy (which I like) since I took them out as soon as their raw looking glisten was gone. I didn't wait for them to brown at all. They weren't too sweet but just sweet enough. You don't want them too sweet anyway, with all that icing making up for it. :)

Carlee enjoyed decorating with her friends, and I really hope that I'm making it clear to her that eating vegan doesn't mean giving up socializing or doing fun food things with friends. I know she's still probably too young to understand that, but I want to make it clear from the start. If there are any left, (since Carlee and Tony have been eating plain sugar cookies left and right,) we're going to decorate the rest tomorrow for some family time, except using home made icing instead of cake icing like they used today. (blech!) heh.

P.S. I started putting copyrights on my photos, only because I don't want people thinking they're in the free domain and they can distort pictures of my baby! lol. If any family want originals, I'd be happy to email them to you, just let me know!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Weekend Happenings

This past weekend was great. We got a lot done, although putting up our Christmas tree somehow got overlooked yet again.

Friday, my friend Angie, and I went to the local Mineo Market. I had one thing to buy: purple ribbon, but also came home with some beautiful purple cauliflower, celery, and 4 bunches of spinach as well. After our shopping, we stopped by a small cafe to have a hot drink, te caldo for me and a cappuccino for Angie. Carlee enjoyed her chocolate Silk, and a sip of Angie's cappuccino which she decided she didn't like after all. After our drinks, we sat and talked. We got onto the topic of being ready to go traveling even if it meant without the guys. It's funny how facing the fact that I'm not accomplishing what I had wanted to here in Sicily, has really renewed that excitement and determination to do it. I've even been practicing my Italian again, which really came in handy at the cafe. An older man sat at a table beside us and was (of course) automatically in love with Carlee. (I love how the Italians absolutely adore kids.) He started talking to us, asking how old Carlee was, how long we had lived in Sicily, did we like it, etc. I understood almost everything, I was surprised at myself.

Words I learned at the market:
Cauliflower: cavolfiore
Spinach: spinaci
Carrot: carota
Celery: sedano
Meter: metre

We had so much fun out in town, and I can't wait to see how much fun we have as we start to get out more.

Saturday we spent all day trying to get a virus off the desktop. A bad one. Tony eventually got rid of it today, but only after a lot of time being annoyed. I also got my Christmas cards addressed. Saturday night we went to my friend, Emy's going away party. :( I'm going to miss her. She's one of the few people here that don't think I'm a little weird. :) She's such a great person, and I hope everything goes awesome for her and her family. Good luck Emy!!!

Sunday, I got a lot done around the house. I also made 3 batches of play dough for Carlee (she goes through play dough so fast!) She had a blast playing with it, she's got a ton of cool play dough utensils and molds and such. It kept her busy for quite a while. I also made some salt dough ornaments for Carlee and me to paint. I'll post pictures once we get that done. (Of course if we don't ever get the tree up, then they will be useless....) We also went to base to take my friend Emy & her husband out to dinner one last time. After we got home from dinner, I made a batch of vegan sugar cookie dough so that Carlee can go to a cookie decorating event tomorrow. It's in the fridge at the moment chilling. Tomorrow morning I will cut & bake them, and hopefully they will turn out okay.

And that was my weekend. I'm about to go fold a load of laundry, and then wind down for the night. Hope everyone had a great weekend. :)