Thursday, February 26, 2009

Snow Party

Just some fun in the snow

Sunday afternoon the youth group decided to go play in the snow. It doesn't happen very often so we took advantage of it. After driving around up in the mountains behind Palermo we finally found a place to play where the snow was deep enough to throw snowballs and make snowmen.

We had a good time and ended up chilly and damp. After we finished we went back to the church to have tea and sweets and warm up.

While putting the heaters on we tripped the electrical breaker at the church, and had to find a way to get into the breaker box. It took a little bit, but we were able to get the electric back.

More Snow Pictures


Looking out over Termini and at the Madonie mountains and also Mount San Calogero.

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Snow in Sicilia

DSC02823Yep, I said snow. According to the locals it has been 10+ years or so since this area has had snow. Of course the year we are here we would get snow. They weekend of Valentine's day it got cold enough to snow. Here in Termini it was too warm on the ground to stick, but Friday night we had a mix of sleet and snow falling outside of our balcony. Saturday morning we got up and drove 7km above Termini to Caccamo and then Roccapalumba. Yes, we actually went looking for snow to drive in. (In the US, I avoid driving in it if at all possible.) We also realized that kids and snow are the same the world over. In Roccapalumba there were a bunch of people playing in the fresh snow. We also found a lake that with the snow capped mountains it looked more like Switzerland than Sicily. After we drove back down into Termini, we decided to go towards Piano Battaglia a local ski resort 40 minutes away. We drove up in to the Parco di Madonie (park at the Madonie mountains). After rounding a couple of curves the rain abruptly switched to snow and we realized that the road was actually starting to get slick. We turned around, since we didn't really have all weather tires on the car. It was really pretty to watch it fall and reminded us of home. There is something so peaceful about the quiet of falling snow.
(Pictures include: Castle at Caccamo, Roccapalumba, the lake, snowing in the park )


Buildings in Venice

DSC02778Here are some of the different buildings along the Grand Canal that winds through the center of the city.








Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More Venice Pictures


    Top to bottom, left to right

    • Clock town in Murano.

    • One of the shop runs in Piazza S. Marco while the water was rising.

    • Campanile of S. Marco

    • Street near hotel. Show standard street size in Venezia.

    • Clock tower in Piazza S. Marco

    The Jewish ghetto of Venice

    One of the more unique things located in the vicinity of our hotel was the Jewish Ghetto which dates back to the 15th century. At one time there were gates around the area which were locked every night and reopened every morning. The Jewish Venetians also had to distinguish themselves by wearing yellow or carrying a symbol. The distinguishing item changed through out the centuries. The ghetto is home to several synagogues, a museum, and rest home. There is also a holocaust monument by sculptor Arbit Blatas. While we were there, wreaths were placed beneath the monument and at one of the synagogues commemorating World Holocaust Memorial Day. We also found a kosher bakery and antique store.


    DSC02623While in Venice we took a day to go to the island of Murano. We wandered through the glass museum, which showed the glass making processes of both today and yesteryear. There were also many examples of period glass from early A.D. to now. Several elaborate table decorations and sparkling chandeliers were also on display. After we left the museum we wandered around taking pictures of the island, including the war memorial and church. Shawn was amused by the fact that this church was hundreds of years old, yet equipped with a nice sound system, lighting and led screens. There was also a large crucifix inside of glass. (Glad the Christ I serve isn't glass. Wouldn't want my faith to shatter easily.) We then went shopping for what else, glass. I found some small gifts and some nice pendants for DSC02622myself as well. One shop keeper in particular was very friendly and gave us a lot of interesting information on Murano and the glass making process. His shop website is, and is located near the blue glass sculpture. He is the only jeweler in Murano. We also ate at the ristorante near his shop. The grilled sole is very good. We also went into a glass gallery where many of the pieces were in the $10,000 range. We didn't stay long or touch anything. There was a small pastry shop where we got yummy pistachio cookies. My favorite Venetian food. On the vaporetto back to mainland Venice we passed the cimitero or cemetery island. It is full of masoleums, since the city is built on small islands and reclaimed land. We decided to go back and rest at the hotel before venturing out to see more of Venice.



    Venezia (Venice)

    For Christmas/Anniversary we got to go to Venice during the first week in February. Ae arrived in the pouring rain and spent about 15 minutes or so dodging puddles and rising water before reaching our hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Ai di Mori d'Oriente. It definitely lived up to its 4 star rating, the room was very nice, and the breakfast was delicious, and the staff very accommodating with information and directions. We began our first day, but purchasing vaporetto tickets so that we could hop on the waterbus if we got tired of walking. Then we headed toward the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco where there are many museums and landmarks located. Venice is a unique city with a fascinating history. It was an independent state, with many trade agreements for goods from all over the world at that time, up until Napoleon at which point the government simply fled. Their head of government was the Doge. His office progressed until he was simply a figurehead of Venice. Our first museum was of ancient columns from early roman times. Then we exited into the courtyard of the Doge's Palace and government buildings. We had to check our back packs before entering the palace and climb the Golden staircase to go through the rooms of the palace and government. The rooms were lavish and decorated by famous painters including: Titan, Tintoretto, and other artists influenced by Bellini. The walls and ceilings were covered. There were also grand fireplaces, and beautiful Murano glass chandeliers as well as period furniture. We spent several hours wandering through the palace before going off to find something to eat. We also went back the next day for the "secret" tour through separate palace of justice rooms and even the prison cell where Cassanova was held.
    In the evening we rode several different vaporetti until we finally got back near our hotel. The next day we went through the museum and out on the balcony of St. Marks Balsilica. The view from the balcony was incredible, you would see out over the entire piazza. (I had a lip gloss fall out of my pocket and roll into one of the gutters. I was afraid it had fallen off the balcony and hit someone. Shawn saw and rescued it for me.) Anyway, we also went through several museums on the other side of the Piazza. One display had 16th century Venitian high heels. What can I say, I like shoes. There was even a mummy on display.
    Another thing we did, was go back to Piazza San Marco at night to see the tide rise in the square. When the tide gets too high, usually during the fall and winter rainy season, they set up wooden walkways on stilts. We were too tired to go out the first night, which was the highest tide while we were there. The next night the water still filled quite a bit of the area with several inches and we were able to get some really good pictures with the different buildings reflected. There is way too much to see for only 3 1/2 days, but we made a valiant attempt. We saw 8 museums and walked for close to 30 hours while we were there. Perhaps one day we will go back.
    (Pictures include: Our hotel with the striped poles at the dock, ceiling of the golden staircase, courtyard of the palace, me on the balcony of St. Mark's, under the bronze horses, and us with the reflections of the Piazza at night.)

    Birthday parties

    DSC02222During January we had the opportunity to attend several birthday parties. The first was for one of the kids in our Saturday program. He specifically invited us, along with a bunch of friends from school. There were games and pizza and of course 2 delicious cakes. His mom made Tiramisu and a peach cake. DSC02223Tiramisu is an Italian dessert made with ladyfinger cookies dipped in coffee and layered with a coffee flavored cream. Very yummy!






    The second party we went to was for a first birthday. It was quite the bash. There was a buffet, with snacks and appetizers, and later on cake. Many people from the church were invited.







      There was a "Winnie the Pooh" character walking around playing games with the kids, music, and lots of decorations. Close to 75 people of all ages attended. Not sure if the little guy realized all the fuss was for him, but we had a good time nontheless.


    Monday, February 23, 2009

    Living Nativity

    We were invited to see a living nativity that is put on in old town Termini, between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6) every year. It was a guided tour through scenes from the Christmas story, beginning with Gabriel speaking to Mary and finishing with the manger scene. We walked up and down throughout the oldest sections of town and had the opportunity to visit 2 churches that are normally closed. The first church, where the scene of Herod and the Magi was staged, had no roof. There is a possibility it was bombed out in WWII when Sicily was invaded. The second church, where the manger scene was held, was closed for renovations and open only because of the living nativity. Inside that church was Sicily's (and possibly Italy) oldest "presepe" or manger scene. There was also a saint buried in the floor; with a small window and a light to see. We enjoyed the experience in spite of the light rain that kept falling off and on.



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    Our 3rd Anniversary

    Wow, have we really been married for 3 years? So much has happened in our lives since we said "I do." January 7, 2006. We decided to take the day and take a little drive along the coastal road to Mondello, Palermo's famous beach area. We detoured a little and drove up Monte Pellegrino, which means "pilgrim". (Side note: my maiden name also meant "pilgrim", just not in Italian.) We had a great view of Palermo from the top. We also passed the church of Santa Rosalia, built in front of the cave where she was a hermit. Unfortunately, the church was closed so we could not see inside. Every year in July they have a big celebration since she is a patron saint of Palermo. There is also a walking path up the mountain used by pilgrims to her sanctuary. There is a national park on top of Monte Pellegrino as well. We finally headed back down the mountain towards our destination. Mondello is a beautiful cove with a wide swathe of white sand beach. In the middle there is a lido, where you can rent a changing room and come to the beach at lunchtime, just leave your swims stuff there. We stopped at a small bar for coffee and a nutella filled crepe, before taking a leisurely stroll down the beach. We met several stray dogs who wanted to play, but they soon lost interest in us after seeing several Jack Russell terriers invading their turf. We didn't stay too long since the sun was beginning to set and it was starting to get chilly and windy. We headed back home and ate a very elegant dinner at a local ristorante. The food was fabulous, and the dessert positively sinful. We had a wonderful day, and can't wait to see what God has in store for our journey together.
    (Pictures include: Palermo from atop Mt. Pellegrino, beach at Mondello with the lido on the left, us on the beach, and the 7 flavor cake we had for dessert.)


    DSC02133 We spent New Year's eve in Palermo surrounded by friends at the church. Dinner, games, and cakes at midnight was the order of the evening. I don't have any pictures, bet there was plenty of food. Sicilians are excellent cooks as we have mentioned in previous posts. We also had many different games. The funniest one involved a toboggan, pair of gloves, a die, chocolate bar, fork, and knife. If you rolled a six you had to put on the hat and gloves, and use the utensils to cut the chocolate bar and take a bite. The catch was that everyone else was taking turns rolling the dice and if they rolled a six before you were done you had to take everything off and pass it to the next person. It was highly entertaining to watch. There was also a fireworks stand several blocks over which my husband and several of the guys from the youth group took advantage of. We had a countdown to midnight and then fireworks were set off all over the DSC02132city. We went home to get some well needed rest.
    New Year's day we were invited to lunch with friends and then ended up spending the rest of the day there. There was much food and fellowship and we played the "salad bowl" game for five hours. Our Italian friends loved it. You write names of famous people on slips of paper and mix them into a bowl, then you have three phases, first descriptions, then one word descriptions, then charades. We ended up staying for a light supper of sandwiches and snacks as well. We had a busy two days and were ready to get back into our regular routine.