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.… Read more
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.… Read more
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.
The one thing I can’t get used to about Christmas in the United States is the maniacal shopping. Tony convinced me to go to Black Friday once, but I’ll never go again.… Read more
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.… Read more
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
It’s the Bohemian retreat you’ve always wanted to visit. Our delightful friends, Stathis and Elettra, have invited us to spend our Sicilian week at their house, and the house is as interesting and hospitable as the hosts. On the desk where I’m writing this, a small Yoda stares across my computer at an eight-inch-high Eiffel tower. Nearby, a lava lamp presides benignly over a miniature zen garden that hasn’t been raked in weeks, and is now home to a large cowrie shell and a lavender silk rose. Elettra is an artist, and her colorful paintings decorate every room, paired with movie posters, photos of her all over Europe, and hand-lettered quotes.… Read more
Apparently, our internet company has reached a deal with our landlord. For the next week, our internet will be on from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day. Too bad we haven’t had jet-lag in over a year. But I guess it’s better than nothing. Fortunately, my clever husband already schedules some of his work time from 5-8 a.m., so it’s not completely wasted. We’re spending next week at a friend’s house in Sicily to rewind our visas, so hopefully everything will be straightened out by the time we return. Just for fun, I checked to see if my Italian residency document is ready to pick up yet, but no dice.… Read more
I hope you all had a lovely Christmas break. Mine was a little complicated, for reasons which I will hopefully be able to elucidate during the next week or two. In the meantime, though, I’ll tell you about our magical Christmas Eve, which we spent in a quaint mountain village a century or two ago. We had been planning to attend this event for nearly three years, ever since we had to leave Italy just as the holidays were approaching. In the end, it was even more fascinating than we had imagined.
Although the snow had all but melted in the rain down in our own little valley town, as we wound up the mountain road, we began to see frosted trees and snowy slopes.… Read more
Last night was our church Christmas party. The whole thing was a little surreal. It was originally my idea, but it didn’t turn out quite as planned. Since I am the branch music chairperson, a few months ago I realized I should probably plan a few special musical numbers for the church service the week before Christmas. My husband is in the branch presidency, so I asked him what the President had in mind. He responded that the President didn’t have anything in mind yet, so I should put something together and present it for his approval. Because our branch is small, and we don’t have a choir or a lot of extra time and resources after we barely manage to accomplish the essentials, I went online and got the simplest Christmas Sacrament Meeting Program I could find.… Read more