Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Morning Nature Museum

Problem: The kids LOVE to collect treasures whenever we go on hikes, play at the beach, or basically have any kind of outdoor adventure. The first thing they do is ask for their treasure bag (very simply, a plastic bag in which to collect things!) and then they proceed to spend much of the outing putting things, large and small, into it. The collecting itself is NOT the problem - it's actually sweet and wonderful and I love that they enjoy and appreciate it so much...the problem occurs when we try to decide what to do with the "treasures" that we've found. I've tried having them choose 3 favorites or having them put things in a special place before we leave, but that's always a battle and goodness knows I have enough battles with my preschool trio so I'd rather not add one to the list.

Solution: My first inclination is to hold onto the bags of treasure for a week or two and then when I think the kids have forgotten about them, I toss them in the trash or return them to an outdoor home. As you can imagine, this has gotten me into trouble from time to time when the kids suddenly remember some lost beauty and I have to explain that we don't have it anymore.

Now that the weather is turning more springlike and we're spending some time in the back yard, the thought occurred to me that we could have a "Backyard Nature Museum" - the perfect solution to our issue of where in the world to store dirty rocks, sappy pine cones, and hundreds of acorns!!! Of course today I realized that the grass has grown unpleasantly long so this morning we simply made a little museum on the back patio. Hopefully we'll get around to mowing sometime soon and be able to move our collection to it's eventual home in the yard. For today, it provided a lovely Monday morning activity for the kids and I to do together.

...and yes, there were visitors! Elise was bummed we couldn't invite friends over on the spot, but she seemed quite pleased once her troop of stuffed animals and dolls joined in the fun!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

18 o'March

Thinking of my dear family today on what would be my Banny's 93rd birthday.

Springtime brings back such nice memories of Banny and of growing up on Garnet Mine Road. The sweet smell of lilacs and vibernum and the sunny yellow daffodils and forsythia that added color to the bank in the yard after a long winter's rest. Banny usually started coming outside to the front patio for cups of coffee in the warm sun and Easter preparations and outdoor clean-up were already underway. So many wonderful blessings and special memories to treasure.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mt. Etna with Whipped Cream on Top!

We always love winding our way through the foothills and up the mountain to the South Station on Mt. Etna. When the weather is nice, it's a great adventure for any time of year. There's just something surreal and enchanting about playing on the side of an active volcano...

Our usual hiking spot around the Silvestri Crater.

Let's be serious, our trips to "play" in the snow are really just about getting chocolato caldo at the end. It's the richest, chocolatiest, meltiest, hot chocolate that you ever did taste!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

More adventures as a family of six!

No, we're not expecting a baby, but the kids were so cute the night before Grant left when they said "Today we have six people in our family, but tomorrow we'll only have five." Grant tried to suggest they get a puppy to take his place, but Elise promptly answered, "That wouldn't be the same."

Views from the lungomare along the Tyrrhenian Sea in Cefalu. Besides my early miscalculation of thinking that I could start the day with three small children at the beach and keep them from getting soaked, we had a fantastic adventure in and around our favorite seaside city.

Grant and the kids and I hiked most of the way up and around La Rocca (the rock formation behind the city) It took lots of snacks and quite a bit of child carrying/wearing, but the amazing panoramic views were well worth the effort!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Uncle Grant Comes to Sicily!

We were so excited when Grant called us a few weeks ago to announce that his passport had just arrived in the mail. He booked a ticket the following day and arrived on Valentine's Day to spend some time sharing life with us. We're so glad he did! Here are some of the highlights:
Our first big outing: Walking along the sea and conquering the Scala dei Turchi. This was our second visit to these breathtaking limestone cliffs that contrast so beautifully with the sweeping views of the Mediterranean.

Climbing, exploring and jumping are encouraged!

One of my favorite places ever to watch a sunset.

On to the archeological park and ruins of Agrigento. Lucas refuses to be left out of the fun!

Classic. I love these guys.

We took these pictures on the property of the little B&B where we stayed. The almond blossoms and late afternoon sun were just amazing.

Since I read about it last year I had been hoping that we would make it to the area around Agrigento which is well know for it's prolific almond blossoms in the late winter months. Reminds me of traveling far and wide to see plum and cherry blossoms in Japan in early spring. Simple beauty!

Day trip to Pineta Monti Rossi. Close to home, a fun and family friendly hike with great views of Etna!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Strawberry and Blood Orange Marmalade

Question: What do you do when your neighbors and friends bring bag after bag of fresh picked blood oranges to your doorstep?!?

Answer: Eat a LOT of them, juice a bunch of them, and get creative to find ways to use the rest of them!

Today we had a lovely time hosting friends and learning how to make homemade marmalade. I dare say, it is a labor of love, but it's worth the effort for a spoonful of this sweet and tangy spread on your next piece of toast!

Step 1: Score the orange peel into quarters and remove the peel. Boil the peels in a large pot of water and reserve cooking liquid. Remove peels from the water, slice thinly and set aside to add in with the fruit when you begin to cook.
Step 2: Once your oranges are peeled, you "supreme" the oranges. ("supreme" is a fancy word that means to separate the pulp of the fruit from the membrane)
Step 3: Dice strawberries and add them in with the supremed oranges and thinly sliced orange rind.
Step 4: Add sliced fruit and four cups of reserved cooking water in a large pot. Bring to a boil.
Step 5: Boil and boil and boil. Add 7 cups of sugar and continue to boil until the liquid reaches about 225 degrees.
Step 6: Remove marmalade from heat and ladle into prepared canning jars. Get ready to enjoy a delightfully tasty experience!

I couldn't help but think of my dear Banny as I sat down afterwards with a hot cup of coffee and a warm slice of marmalade toast - such sweet memories.

Festa della Donna

We celebrated Women's Day Italian Style today. We went into town and purchased sunny yellow mimosa flowers and a tortetta di mimosa cake to share. The cake had a crunchy pie crust-like shell and was filled with classic vanilla crema. It was topped with cake crumbs to make it look like the mimosa flowers! Yum!