My Favorite Walks Around the World

I found this post mostly completed in my drafts folder, and thought I’d share, since it’s been awhile since I did a nostalgia post. One of the beautiful things about moving often is that you experience the “little things” of life in so many different ways. Like the smell of the plants outside your window. Or the way different fruits taste when they’re in season. Or the cadence of stray overheard phrases in different languages.

Among the constant yet changeable things in my life is the evening walk that Tony and I have taken ever since we got married. Besides being a great time to reconnect as a couple, talk about what’s on our minds, and get some fresh air, our walk also helps to explore whatever neighborhood is ours at the moment. Since we so often view the outside world through a car window, walking lets us take a slower, more intimate look at the scenery and notice things we wouldn’t otherwise see.

read more

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, The Host, Prague Winter, Shakespeare in Italy, and Seven Daughters of Eve

Let’s talk books! The good, the pedantic, and Stephenie Meyer’s already-made-into-a-movie foray into science fiction.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three stars, because this book can only be described as uneven. On the one hand, I was absolutely fascinated by the Kingsolver family’s adventures in producing most of their own food for an entire year. Probably because I already had my own fantasies about moving to a farm and subsisting on my own heirloom vegetables and heritage farm animals. I loved the recipes and seasonal menus, as well as the practical information on homesteading, including hilarious accounts of things like mushroom hunting, using a year’s bounty of zucchini, and breeding turkeys. And of course I related to the trip to Italy.

read more

How I Made Friends With Facebook

I have not always been a friend to Facebook. I am way too old to have grown up using it in high school. Actually, I’ll admit it, I’m even too old to have used it in college. I found out about Facebook from my kid brother long after all the cool people were already on it. I finally broke down and joined on 12 November 2008. According to Facebook, that important date (which appears prominently in my snazzy new Timeline) ranks right up there with being born and graduating from college.

Like most users, I experienced the initial infatuation with Facebook, as it put me back in touch with various long lost friends. And although I never took photos of myself kissing Zuckerberg’s photo, I do have warm fuzzies over Facebook’s important role in the Arab Spring. Since then, however, my feelings about Facebook have deteriorated from sarcastic ambivalence to downright hostility.

read more

Globetrotting, Mormon-style

One of the things almost sure to be heard in a Mormon testimony meeting after someone has traveled (whether it’s across the ocean or just to the next town over) is an expression of gratitude that “the Church is the same no matter where you go.” To a certain extent, it’s true. We all sing the same hymns, although every ward congregation seems to have its particular favorites. We all read the same scriptures. Sunday meetings follow the same general format, even if the meetings are in a different order.  Sunday School and other lesson manuals are standardized and translated into over a hundred languages, and on any given Sunday the whole worldwide Church is studying the same lesson (give or take a week or two depending on how organized the local Sunday School teacher happens to be).

read more

Benvenuto

I absolutely cannot stop listening to this song, so I thought I’d share it with you. It is the official version, so you have to actually go to YouTube to watch it. But it’s worth it.

httpv://youtu.be/zNtDe7hfETQ

Fashionable Italian hippies recreating Woodstock in Amsterdam, and Laura Pausini by firelight. What’s not to love?

Italian Grandmothers, Plants of the Bible, Rock the Casbah, and Prisoner of the Vatican

I’ve been reading a lot of books about Italy and the Middle East lately, and this week I have some really wonderful ones for you.

Figs, Dates, Laurel, and Myrrh: Plants of the Bible and the Quran by Lytton John Musselman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What did Eve really eat in the Garden of Eden? Which plant produced Christ’s crown of thorns? Are the “lilies of the field” actually poppies? Not your ordinary Biblical commentary, Musselman’s book concentrates exclusively on the flora of the Bible and the Qur’an. The author is a respected botanist who has lived in and conducted research throughout the Middle East for many years. His exhaustive but manageable book presents every single plant mentioned in the holy books of the three major faiths of the Holy Land. I love that he presented the plants of the Qur’an side by side with those of the Bible. It was interesting to see which plants overlapped. Having lived in the region, Musselman can present not only botanical and historical facts about the plants, but also explain how they are eaten, worn, and used by people today. The many lovely photographs in the book are mostly his own, and portray both the plants themselves and their appearances in everyday modern life in Bible lands, whether at the apothecary’s store, the vegetable market, or just in the landscape.

read more

Running Away to Home, La Bella Lingua, Dune, and the Woman Who Laughed at God

I keep starting more books, and can’t seem to finish many of them. But here are a few reviews to start off the year:

Running Away to Home by Jennifer Wilson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having done a very similar thing myself, I enjoyed reading Jennifer Wilson’s account of how she took her family to the Czech Republic in search of her ancestors. I loved all the little details of their acceptance into her ancestral village, and how she and her suburban American family learned a different way of living and seeing the world. However, the book lacked a certain internal consistency and completeness. At times, Wilson simply rambled. And she kept bringing up interesting themes and then dropping them without warning, never to be revisited. The concluding chapters read a little insincerely, almost as if she’d written them before she ever went, and been planning to write the book all along.

read more

Italian Christmas Memories

Well, we’re going on three months now, and cultural acclimation is progressing. I still can’t figure out why I keep seeing people walking around in shirt-sleeves when it’s almost December. My mother-in-law says it’s because all they have to do is walk from warm cars to warm buildings. I (and my children, according to me) can’t survive outside without sweaters, coats, scarves, and hats. I guess this is how the Florentines felt seeing my bare, scarf-less neck in springtime.

read more

Italians and their food

As far as I know, all Italians love good food. However, what seems to set Sicilians apart is the sheer quantity of food they love. In Sicily last week, we went to a restaurant in Agrigento, ordered what we thought was a normal meal, and received four plates, each one containing enough pasta to feed our entire family. Tony’s is pictured above. It was tasty, although I just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a gigantic insect sitting next to his tagliatelle. We also ate gelato four times in the six days we spent there, as well as sundry other sweets. Needless to say, after a week in Sicily, I feel like I should go on a diet, and stop eating pasta, pizza, and gelato. Fortunately for me, while all of those can technically be found in Tunisia, none are close enough to the genuine Italian article to really tempt. In fact, during one of our first weeks here in Tunisia, we were eating at a well-recommended restaurant in Hammamet. An Italian family walked in. They were seated, and one asked for a recommendation from their waiter. The waiter suggested a dish containing mozzarella cheese. The Italian was instantly suspicious, and asked to see the mozzarella. When taken back to the kitchen and presented with the cheese, he shook his head: “That’s not mozzarella.”

read more

In the Valley of the Temples

In the Valley of the Temples

I have now visited ancient Greece, although we have not left the Italian island of Sicily. I can happily report that “one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe” lives up to its reputation. Magnificently. Even glimpsed from a distance, as we have seen it every day on our walks through the eucalyptus grove near Stathis and Elettra’s house, the “Valley of Temples” looked like something so lovely and classical as to seem almost unreal. And actually standing in the shadow of those temples was even more awesome than I had imagined it would be. Ancient Roman ruins impress me, but ancient Greek ruins move me.

read more