Archive | Mt Etna

Making Room on Thanksgiving


The first time we saw our future home in Sicily, we fell completely in love with the gigantic farmhouse table and benches in the dining room.  The landlords told us that the table came with the house, and I immediately began to dream of filling the table with friends and family.  I love to put people around that table!

We’ve made some new friends recently, and I thought they might be feeling far from family for their first big holiday in Sicily.  We sent out an email, arranged a potluck, and all converged in our home on Thanksgiving.  Alyssa brought spinach and artichoke dip, an apple pie, salted caramel brownies, and hot rolls; Laura made her mom’s famous broccoli and sweet potato casseroles; and Brigitta brought cider and mulling spices, two pumpkin pies, and the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD for Lena to borrow!  I took care of the turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, and mashed potatoes, and also made a new favorite for us: pear and ginger bruschetta with goat cheese. Everyone contributed wine.  And we feasted!


One thing I love about hosting is the chance to bring out all the dishes that otherwise only see occasional use in our house, like our beautiful glass wine decanter and the Polish pottery my mom gave us as a wedding gift.  I also lit four colorful Shabbat candles that Elliott and I bought in Israel; we visited there during Elliott’s yearlong assignment in Egypt soon after we got married.  It felt extravagant and joyful to burn four of them at once in a candelabra in the middle of our Thanksgiving feast.


Before the meal, between dinner and dessert, and after we were too stuffed to eat one more bite, we gathered around our fireplace with glasses of wine or mugs of mulled cider.  Gil and Lena played relatively happily around us, and we carried on adult conversation over their little blond heads.  I felt relaxed as a hostess because of the many hands there that were so eager to help with everything: serving, clearing, packing up leftovers, playing with children, and even washing the dishes.  (Thank you, Laura, for spearheading that… I wanted to kiss your feet later when I realized how tired I was and how much you’d helped me!)

The highlight of the evening came when everyone was talking in the kitchen, and suddenly someone said, “Oh wow… Etna’s erupting!”  We all looked out the window and were treated to the best eruption so far this fall.  (In the photo below, you can just see the glow of the eruption above the clouds.)  She erupted for hours, and we were treated to a spectacular view out of our kitchen window.  Quite a fun dollop of whipped cream on the proverbial pumpkin pie!


Thank you, friends, for braving the tiny Italian streets to share Thanksgiving with us.  We’re so thankful for these growing friendships with you!  Can’t wait for many games of Settlers of Catan and hikes up Etna in the future.

As we head into the holidays, I want to continue to “make room” in our home, lives, and hearts for others, to be attuned to their needs just as much as my own.  I read this quote again from one of my favorite books, and I hope that such simplicity of focus and love is evident in my heart throughout this Christmas season:

[S]implification is not just about taking things away.
It is about making room, creating space in your life, your intentions, and your heart.


For those of you who might be interested, here’s the recipe for the pear and ginger bruschetta.  It was a hit, and I’ll be making it again soon!

Pear-Ginger-Goat Cheese Bruschetta

adapted from Style Me Pretty’s Thanksgiving 2012 Guide


  • 1 long French baguette
  • 4 large pears
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped raisins
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 10 oz goat cheese
  • Parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 350* F (180* C).  Slice the baguette in 1/2″-thick slices.  Toast in the oven for 10 minutes, 5 minutes per side, or until crisp and slightly brown around the edges.  Remove and place on a wire rack to cool.
  2. Core and peel the pears and then cut them into a 1/2″ dice.
  3. Put the pears, ginger, vinegar, brown sugar, raisins, and salt into a medium non-stick pan.  Cook for 25-30 min, stirring occasionally.  Stir frequently in the last 10 minutes as the sugar caramelizes and the mixture begins to darken and thicken.
  4. Spread a tsp of goat cheese on each slice of baguette.  Spoon the pear chutney on top of each slice.  Top with a parsley garnish if desired.
11 :: in friends, holidays, hospitality, in my kitchen, Mt Etna

how we spend our days {Part 1 of 2}


Right before Gil was born, I did a two-part blog series documenting a regular day at home with Lena.  I knew those days were precious, and I wanted to capture the whole day in images as best I could (mostly for my own sake!).  Little did I know that Gil would be born the next day.  That really was the very last day in that stage of our lives.

Just like last January, change is on the horizon for us now.  We will only be in Sicily for another 8 months, and after that I don’t know where we’ll be or what my everyday life will look like.  I could very well go back to work, and/or my children might be in school or daycare.  Who knows?

There is also change in the weather here, as the autumn winds begin to whistle around our house on the cliff and the fields below us once again turn lush and green with the winter rains.

And there is change in our children.  They are not the same from day to day or even moment to moment.  When I took these pictures last week, Gil preferred to scoot everywhere, hoisting himself forward on his two arms and dragging his legs behind him.  Now, just four days later, he’s marching around on all fours with military precision.  Lena has probably learned 10 new words.  How can I keep up with all this change?

Of course the answer is that I can’t keep up with it.  I can only enjoy these fleeting days filled with growth and development and constant newness.  So, in order to capture a little bit of these days for my memory, I grabbed my camera on the morning of November 14th — my 27th birthday.  It was a special day in some ways (hot breakfast and cupcakes and presents, oh my!), but in others it was just the same as most others, because sameness — rhythm, routine — is necessary with young ones.

How we spend our days is, after all, how we spend our lives. (Annie Dillard)

So here is a day in our lives.


On that morning, Elliott let me sleep in… which was blissful!  We’re terrible at going to bed on time, and so we end up getting 6-7 hours of sleep most nights.  It just isn’t enough for either one of us, but we are starved for time to work on projects and spend time together after the kids are in bed, so I doubt our bedtime will change anytime soon.  To cope with this, we’ve started helping each other sleep in, which makes a monumental difference in our attitudes.

As soon as I stepped into the living room, Lena ran towards me holding a birthday card, her face lit up like the sunrise and words bubbling out of her with excitement.  She showed me the balloons, heart, and letters she and Elliott had drawn together, and then she opened up the card to show me five globs of scribble, which she pointed to in turn and described as, “A blue lion… and a red lion… and a yellow lion… and a green lion… and a… a pink lion!”  Except “lion” was more like “yion.”  You could have cleaned me up off the floor with a sponge; I totally melted into a little puddle of love.

I scooped her up and took her back to bed with me for some snuggles while Elliott disappeared into the kitchen…


… and returned a short while later with breakfast on a tray!  Hot coffee, bacon, an egg, and two pancakes (one with syrup and one with Nutella and banana, just the way I like them).   He then took Lena and left me to eat and read quietly in bed.  For some reason, this seemed like the very height of luxury to me right then.  I didn’t have to jump up to grab anything, and I didn’t have to feed anyone but myself.  And I could read!  “Honey, that was wonderful,” I told Elliott, “We have got to treat each other to it more often!”


Elliott had to run out the door to work, so I took over duty in the kitchen.  He gave us each a kiss and dashed out the door as we made plans to see him later for a picnic on the playground.

Out the kitchen window, I drank in the view of Etna, the volcano that dominates the eastern Sicilian skyline.  On winter mornings there’s barely a cloud in the sky.  Breathtaking!



My little ones were finishing their breakfast.  They are both huge fans of pancakes and eggs, a treat in our house!


Lena and Gil love to “snuggle” in Gil’s bed, where they play with toys, roll, and tumble.  Lena particularly enjoys this because it’s the only time she gets to have a pacifier (Gil’s, of course), which she still misses very much.  Sometimes she seems so mature, and sometimes I see glimpses of the little girl that was Gil’s age… wasn’t it just last week?!


Since they were safe and happily playing in Gil’s bed, started a load of laundry in our tiny Italian washing machine.  Afterwards I moved them to my bed for more snuggles as I got ready for the day.



Gil’s gets busier by the day.  Drawers, cupboards, and doors are his favorite things, and he loves to open and close them and see what’s on the other side.


Caught ya!


I moved into the bathroom, and they followed me… and disemboweled my toiletry bag.  Lena found something for her lips…

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I caught Lena jumping on the bed — a forbidden but also an irresistible temptation for her! — and moved the group to the living room rug, where we keep a rotation of toys.  Gil pounded one of the cat’s toys onto a vintage Fisher Price xylophone, which I was stoked to find at a junk antique fair last week.


Lena asked me to help her make a “choo-choo train,” which is a line of blocks that she can then roll her cars over.


Gil found an actual choo-choo train.


Siena, our constant companion.  I have been so grateful for her tolerance and even fascination with my children as they’ve grown.  She lets Gil almost smother her before she disentangles herself, and she has always been gentle but firm in letting the kids know her limits.  She’s eager to be right on the periphery of our activity, a quiet shadow following us around the house.

After this, it was about 10am and Gil was ready for his morning nap.  I changed his diaper, zipped him up in a sleep sack, and then nursed him on the guest room bed.  Lena — who is not very good at amusing herself — quietly slipped into the room and snuggled up next to us, doing her best not to talk.  After a few minutes I laid a drowsy Gil down in his bed, and Lena and I tiptoed out of the room.


In the kitchen, clouds obscured Mt Etna already.


Lena read a library book while I gathered ingredients for carrot cupcakes.  I had to teach a knitting class at 6:30 tonight, and we like to eat and put Gil to bed before I go.  Because of this, I needed to have dinner ready by 5pm.  I wanted to make it special — it was my b’day! — and fun for my family.  I’ll cash in on my birthday reward of a husband-cooked meal some other time!


As the cupcakes baked, I mixed spices to marinate the meat for this incredible recipe


… and chopped onions, tomatoes, and peppers as part of the criolla salsa to accompany the meat.

That’s about half of the photos from that day.  I’ll pick up tomorrow with some cloth diaper-folding, a visit to base, my task list during the kids’ nap time, and a birthday dinner!

6 :: in a picture an hour, Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom Series, family, home sweet home, life lately, Mt Etna

a summer hike on a volcano {Mt Etna}


A couple of weeks ago, we invited our friends the Arthurs to go on a hike on Mt Etna with us.  I’ve mentioned this active local volcano before; we often see her erupting out our kitchen window!  We love hiking on her slopes because the air is so much cooler and the flowers are so beautiful in the spring, summer, and fall.  In the winter this part of the trail would be covered in snow.

(Also, before I go any farther, my apologies for all the pictures… I just couldn’t resist!  I had over 200 to begin with, so you really are just getting the best of the best.  Hope you all enjoy this hike with me all over again through the images!)


Ladybugs and nose picking… when it comes to two-year-olds, they go together so well!


The coarse volcanic ash can fill up shoes quickly… and lead to gorgeous vegetation like these flowers, whose perfume filled the air.

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Showing Miss Becca a ladybug that she found.

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Pine cones are one thing you can’t find very easily in Sicily.  Tantrums, unfortunately, are easy to find everywhere.

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Lena was pleased as punch that the Arthurs had some goldfish to share with her.

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Elliott’s sister Jess took a photo like the one on the left when we hiked this trail with her last summer.  I was pregnant with Gil then, and now he’s a 6-month-old baby!


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Men dislodging and chucking lava.  Aphids on a branch.


Sweet baby Eden.

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One of the very few pictures we have together!


They were building mini Mt Etnas.

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Finally at the end of our hike!  To the right is the huge valley where the lava flows during eruptions.  The peak of Mt Etna herself is hidden in the clouds to the right.

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New family photo!


Looking down towards the Plain of Catania and the sea… mostly lost in the haze.


And a cheesy farewell to Mt Etna on the right… :-)

12 :: in friends, hiking, Mt Etna

Mt. Etna in the autumn (or… hiking with kids)

The weather these days in Sicily is just perfect in every way.  Clear, refreshing days with big bowl-of-blue skies and light breezes.  Rain once every week or so, just enough to turn the earth green again and give you reason to break out your cooler weather gear.  And then there are the hints of changing color on Mt. Etna, which we are taking every opportunity to see.
Last Saturday we joined our dear friends the Arthurs for another hike on Mt. Etna.  It was a perfect day: a picnic, a fireplace (even if we forgot marshmallows), a beautiful climb, and a magnificent view.  Oh, and kids wearing themselves out with happy play!
Elise in her new hat 
Mama Arthur and her brood

Lena and Lucas

The fire builders and their helpers.  (Josh: “It’s easier to wear Elise’s hat than carry it for her.”)

How young families hike.
The final push and then the summit.

Beautiful Sicily!

“There’s our town, guys, can you see it?”

my gentle husband
we three and Mt. Etna
9 :: in friends, hiking, Mt Etna, Sicily, weekend

fall color in Sicily

Ever since I returned to Sicily last week, I’ve been feeling sad about leaving beautiful fall color behind in Virginia.  We love living here, but there’s just nothing like autumn on the East Coast.  I think it’s the rich color saturation of everything: leaves, clothes, sky, scarves, apples, boots, lipstick, pumpkins. 
Last week my friend Becca mentioned that there is fall color on Mt. Etna, the highest volcano in Europe, which is just a 45-min drive from our house.   Quick, gather a crew and let’s go hiking!  With two of our closest family friends here, we drove up to the slopes of the volcano, picnics packed and children in tow. 

Aren’t the kids cute?  Elliott and I got to see what “hiking” will look like in a few years when Lena’s a little older and we add a babe or two to our family!  These are some rockstar parents, folks.

 I’m linking up with Weekend Update Blog Hop and The Weekend File.
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11 :: in friends, hiking, Mt Etna, Sicily, weekend

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