Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Ma’s Deep Pockets

February 18, 2017

I solemnly took her coat, a beautiful leather coat. A memento of sorts, the coat was something tangible to remember her by.

I claimed it as my own, a coat I’d probably never buy for myself. I still can’t imagine my mother wearing it and found no photos to prove she wore it. I must have had it in my possession for about a year after her death before I thought to actually wear it. We were headed to see a play. It was a cool Seattle autumn evening. The coat fit as if it were tailored for me.

Ma's Leather Jacket

Ma’s Leather Jacket

On our way to the car, I discovered pockets, deep pockets, to keep my hands warm. It was when I thrust my hands into ma’s deep pockets that I made my discoveries.

In the right pocket, I found a handkerchief. Perfectly clean, starched, and ironed. Instinctively, I put the hanky to my nose, as if to search out a trace of my mother’s smell. All I smelled were mothballs. Those of you reading this, who knew my mother, are laughing. I know you are, but it is no laughing matter! My mother had this thing about mothballs. Or, more accurately, she had a fear of moth infestations so she stuffed mothballs in closets, dresser drawers, coat pockets, and between our folded sweaters. My mother knew that mothballs would keep moths away. What she didn’t know was that mothballs are made of naphthalene, an insecticide, which gives off highly toxic fumes and vapors harmful to insects, wildlife, and humans.

The handkerchief

The handkerchief

In a split second, nose to handkerchief, I was back in my childhood home. The handkerchief transported me to a small brick house in NW Indiana, where the heating and AC vents carried no-longer-secret private conversations between my parents. Conversations about their monetary worries, concerns over the safety of their children, their health, our health, our futures carried through the vents with a frightening and embarrassing clarity. I remember once confessing to a priest about eavesdropping on my parents’ private conversations. I felt that guilty so as to bring my dark shame to the confessional box! I remember the priest taking an unnatural interest in my confession! Ah, the smell of that darned handkerchief!

Back to the autumn theater night in Seattle, my fingers next touched a tube of lipstick. Ma’s coral red lipstick! My mother didn’t wear make up, but on certain rare occasions, she’d put some lipstick on. For some reason, I hardly remember this. It’s a dim memory, only brought to the surface when I found the tube of red lipstick in ma’s deep pockets.

Ma's Coral Red Lipstick

Ma’s Coral Red Lipstick

For some reason the lipstick made me sad. I am trying to understand why it makes me sad. Maybe it’s because the lipstick is a testimony to the life my mother once lived. The tube of lipstick I found bears witness to my mother’s all-too-human life, one in which she wanted to feel more feminine, more beautiful. The tube of color to redden her lips unveils a woman, my mother, who was alive for a brief time. Holding the tube of lipstick makes me sad because I am reminded of her earthly existence, and all the complex feelings we humans may have about measuring up and concerns about how we should look and present ourselves to the world. I see her applying the red lipstick, perhaps in search of a boost of confidence and I continue to feel overwhelmed with sadness.

That same autumn evening in Seattle on our way to the theater, I found one last item, the most significant one, in ma’s deep pockets. I found my mother’s beloved saint card.  I couldn’t believe I now had her treasured prayer card in my possession.

Santa Rosalia, Patron Saint of Palermo

Santa Rosalia, Patron Saint of Palermo

My mother loved Santa Rosalia. Santa Rosalia is also affectionately known by Sicilians as La Santuzza, or The Little Saint. I used to see my mom pull out her saint card, covered in a clear plastic card holder. She’d lovingly caress La Santuzza, flip the card over, and I’d watch her silently lip the prayer on the card.

La Santuzza (1120-1160) is always depicted wearing a crown of roses. She is sometimes shown wearing dark thick fabrics because she cast off her riches and lived a monastic life in a cave. Her story is unusual: Rosalia was born in Palermo, Sicily, to Sicilian aristocracy (Frankish aristrocrats governing Sicily). Her father was Sinibald, Lord of Roses. Rosalia was a descendant of Charlemagne. Rosalia was a beautiful noble woman, who at a very young age, experienced a calling to devote her life to God. At age 13, she moved to a cave near the town of Santo Stephano Quisquina and devoted her life to prayer. She later moved to another cave on Mount Pellegrino, near Palermo. She lived entirely alone and died alone.

Always shown wearing a crown of roses, here La Santuzza wears the clothing of a hermit.

Always shown wearing a crown of roses, here La Santuzza wears the clothing of a hermit.

As a hermit, she was not venerated by her neighbors, royalty, or family. No one came to visit her. She died completely alone.

In 1625, during a period of plague, she appeared in a vision to a hunter near her cave. Her relics were discovered, brought to Palermo, and paraded through the street. Three days later the plague ended, intercession to Rosalia was credited with saving the city, and she was proclaimed its patroness. The traditional celebration of Rosalia lasted for days, involved fireworks and parades, and her feast day was made a holy day of obligation by Pope Pius XI in 1927.

Her festival is an annual celebration in Palermo, but I also found the following:

Rosalia is deeply revered as a saint to this day.  Her festival is a big bash, not only in Palermo, but also in Bensonhurst (a neighborhood in Brooklyn) and other Sicilian communities.  Monterey, California has a three-day fishing tournament and Italian heritage festival in her honor.

Santa Rosalia, La Santuzza, beloved saint of Palermo

Santa Rosalia, La Santuzza, beloved saint of Palermo

My mother must have gotten the card from Sicily because La Santuzza’s prayer is in Italian. On the way home on the cold autumn evening, I dug my hands into ma’s deep pockets. Perhaps like my mother, I found myself caressing the card covered by clear plastic. I didn’t read the prayer until I got home that night.

Below is the prayer on the reverse side of La Santuzza’s card (translated from Italian to English).  This is the prayer my mother lipped silently every day:

Santa Rosalia, pray to God for my family and me.

Through your powerful prayers, may we obtain health, life and salvation.

I also pray for this special need and intention

(make your intention


O St. Rosalia, I promise henceforth to remember and follow your example of faith and love.

Pray for me and mine.


In Ma’s deep pockets, I discovered a cornucopia of treasures transcending time.

Quintet of Daughters

October 1, 2016

I am one of five daughters.

My mother was one of five daughters.

My mother’s mother was one of five daughters.



I come from a lineage of five daughters born on my mother’s side of the family for three generations in a row.  Too bad it’s not five generations in a row.  It would have made for an even better blog post!  There may have been five generations of five daughters, but the fact is that I don’t have knowledge of my mother’s family past my great grandmother, Mamma Rosi.

there are five great lakes: erie, huron, michigan, ontario, superior … i was born in gary, indiana, which borders one of the five great lakes, lake michigan….my birth town, gary, indiana, was also home of the jackson five, there are five points in a star, five cups in a sake set when purchased in Japan, five arms in a starfish, and an earthworm as five hearts. there are five senses: hearing, smelling, taste, touch, sight…five vowels in the English alphabet, five players on the the court in basketball, five olympic rings symbolizing five continents, in the yoga tradition, there are five layers of a human being, which are known has the koshas in sanskrit. there are five toes on each foot and five fingers on each hand, five elements in chinese tradition: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water,  five elements in the hindu tradition: earth, water, fire, air, ether or space, and five primary colors: green/blue, yellow, red, white, black

And there are FIVE photos I’d like to share with you.

These family photos are my treasures.


My Grandmother, Antonia Tirone Licata, and her sisters!

FIVE SISTERS: My Grandmother in the middle, Antonia Tirone Licata, and her sisters, on their family vineyard in Grotte during the grape harvest (la vendemmia).

Who thought to bring a camera out to the vineyards to photograph these five sisters at grape harvest time in Grotte, Sicily?  Back then, the concept of smiling when being photographed was absurd.  Instead, you looked straight into the camera and acted your dignified best.

My grandmother is the petite woman in the middle.  She was the smallest of the five, small but powerful.  She ruled the roost.  I once overheard my mother and one of her sisters describing their parents, “La mamma ficiva lu pappa e lu pappa ficiva la mamma.” Mother wore the pants and Father was the one we went to for coddling and comfort.” (Literally, “Mother played the role of Father and Father played the role of Mother.”)

My grandmother and her sisters enjoyed long lives.  My grandmother birthed and raised ten children. She also worked as both midwife and undertaker in the village of Grotte.  She helped the villagers enter the world and was there to wash and prepare their bodies for their burials.  Death did not frighten her.  Her nickname among the villagers was Sant’ Anto (Saint Antonia).  Even today, when I go to the village, I introduce myself as the daughter of Pina di Sant’Anto and immediately I carve out a place for myself in the village.

Three of the sisters are wearing black, the color of mourning because they are widows.  One of my great auntie’s has her hair covered in a white scarf, typical hair attire at harvest time in Sicily.  The white scarf served as a hat-like covering to keep the scorching sun off her head. She also is wearing a white medallion pinned to her dress.  We can’t see it up close, but it is a photo of her deceased husband.  My grandmother wore a medallion like that, too, pinned to her dress for over 3o years of widowhood. Even today, the widows of Grotte never forget their deceased husbands.  They rarely re-marry, even if widowed young, and they go to the cemetery often to wipe dust from the headstones, to water the flowers around the grave, and to pray.  One of my great aunties in the photo above has removed her white scarf, probably for the photo, and has it slung over her shoulder.  All of these sisters wore their hair long, wrapped in a tight bun.  When I visited my her, I used to love watching my Nonna undo her hair at night.  Her hair was wispy long and steely gray.

The sisters are proudly displaying bunches of picked grapes.  These magnificent women are Earth-Women.  I love how they stand, firmly rooted to the earth!   I love their strong ample bodies.  My grandmother is holding, nearly hugging, a typical woven basket from Sicily.  In the Sicilian dialect the woven basket is called a cartedda, a word derived from the Greek (from kartallos), because Sicily was a Greek colony in ancient times.  I had an uncle who used to make such baskets during the winter months, when he wasn’t busy tending his farm.


Grandmother Antonia Licata (Mamma Anto') with her sisters and two brothers.

Grandmother Antonia Tirone Licata (Mamma Anto’) with her sisters and two brothers.  These are the adult children of my great grandmother, Mamma Rosi (Rosa Zaffuto Tirone).

Another priceless gem!  Again, my grandmother is in the middle with her sisters and her two brothers.  In fact, the sisters have all taken the same standing position as in the grape harvest photo! They are older in this photo.  Now there are four women dressed in black, four widows. Their hair is definitely thinner.  I love how the sisters all carry brand new purses.  What on earth did they carry in their purses?  I never knew my grandmother to carry a purse.  She carried her enormous skeleton key, tied on a long string, tucked and buried deep between her breasts.  The image left an indelible impression on this author’s ten year-old girl’s brain!

The photo was taken inside a house.  It is not my grandmother’s house.  You can see the wooden doors behind the family and the sheer lace curtains that cover the door.  And you can see a fancy doll decorating a sofa.  Maybe it is the village photography studio.

I was lucky enough to meet my grandmother and her siblings!  The five sisters and their two brothers all lived to be in their 80s and 90s.  Mostly I remember “Tsa Ve” (Zia Veva), the woman with the half smile whose hand is on my grandmother’s shoulder, because she immigrated to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada to live with her son and his family.  I met her on several occasions in Canada when I was young.



This is a great family treasure: a photo of  my grandparents, Antonia Tirone Licata and her husband Vincenzo Licata and their ten children, five girls and five boys.  My mother is one of five daughters. My mother is the one with her hand on her little brother’s shoulder. This photo was probably taken in the same place as the previous photo, which makes me think this is the village photographic studio.  Look at the floors!  But this time, there is a sheet covering the wall behind the family. I love how in the two “studio” photos, almost everyone is given a prop to hold.  I bet the photographer handed out handbags/purses to the ladies, newspapers and scrolls to the men, and toys to the children.

When I go to Grotte, every aunt and uncle present in this photo has a copy of this Licata family portrait.  My aunts and uncles keep a framed copy of this photo at their bedside.  As long as the siblings live, before going to bed, they say goodnight to their beloved mother and father who are long gone.  I have seen them kiss this photo before retiring for the night.  Five of the siblings have died (my mother being one of them) and five are still alive.  Two of the sisters are still alive.  Rosa, the eldest of all ten children, will soon celebrate her 100th birthday.  Maria celebrated 97 years of life just a few days ago! There is a 26-year span between Rosa, the eldest, and Decimo, the youngest, whose name literally means “tenth child”.


My mom and her sisters and their mother

My mom, her sisters, and their mother

The photo above was taken in 1972 at my grandmother’s house in Grotte.  My mother is wearing white.  Three of the aunties wear their long hair in an old Sicilian traditional style, tightly pulled back and knotted in a bun. This is the only photo I have of all the sisters together in their later years.

PHOTO NUMBER FIVE: My mom and her five girls!  This was taken in Gary, Indiana.  I am the baby. I love my purse!  The tradition of holding a prop in one’s hand while being photographed continues!


My Aunt Lily (Revised Re-Post)

July 30, 2016

July 30, 2016:  I am reposting this and have added a few more photos.  I wrote this a few years ago in honor of my Aunt Lily.  Today, sadly, she died.  She just turned 89 years old last month.  I am overwhelmed with sadness.  The world today seems to be a very empty place……

I have immense gratitude for my Aunt Lily.  I have wanted to write about her for so long now, but as I write, I am not sure where to start.

I am not even sure how to write about my Aunt Lily..  She is a very special person in my life and even my friends, who have only met her through my stories, are in love with her!  She is my godmother and she has been a part of my life since day one.

When my parents and sisters immigrated to the United States, they first settled in the Boston area to be near Dad’s brother Joe (Giuseppe) Gallo, his wife, and their two children (one of them is East Coast Fran!).  My family was having a great time, settling in Boston.   However, Aunt Lily, Dad’s little sister, was living in Gary, Indiana with her husband and was feeling very lonely.   She got married at age 19 in Grotte, Sicily  to a man much older than herself.  I am not sure of their age difference, but my guess is Uncle Sam (Salvatore) could easily have been 30+ years her senior.  If given a chance to get out of an impoverished situation, who knows, many might have made the marriage choice my auntie made.  Salvatore Cuffaro (Uncle Sam) went back to his hometown, Grotte, in 1946 looking for a wife to bring back with him to America (to Gary, Indiana) where he had been living for many years.  He was well dressed, well fed,  and well filled-out in contrast to the post-war Grottese who were struggling to put food on the table.   My grandmother encouraged Aunt Lily to marry Uncle Sam, knowing she would most certainly have a better life in America.  When we were together last Christmas, I asked Aunt Lily  if she was happy in her first marriage and she said, without any hesitation whatsoever, “Yes!”.  She said Uncle Sam was a good man and he was really kind to her.

Aunt Lily lost one child and was never able to have other children. Childlessness was the absolute heartbreak of her life.  The prospect of having her only brother and his wife and his beautiful 4 little girls live near her made her heart beat once again with the promise of life!  Eventually my parents decided to leave Boston and go live near Aunt Lily in Gary, Indiana.  I can only imagine how excited she was when my mom became pregnant with me.  As I have mentioned in another blog, my mom and Aunt Lily shared the special relationship of what Sicilians call “cuma”, or co-mothers.  Together, they co-mothered me.  How many people do you know raised by two mothers and one father?  One mother disciplined me and the other, Aunt Lily,  coddled me!

Aunt Lily’s life in America was anything but easy. She worked and worked and worked.  She has told me more than once, “I been a work’ real-la hard all-a my life!”  Uncle Sam had a restaurant in Gary, Indiana called Isle of Capri and as soon as Aunt Lily settled in America, she was busy working at the restaurant.   She did everything!  She ran the show!  She was prep chef, sous chef, main chef, shopper, bartender, waitress, bus boy, dishwasher, and cleaning person.  She made everything from bread to tomato sauce to pasta by hand!  The restaurant was hopping!  The verdict was out about Isle of Capri. It was outrageously great!  If, today, you ever meet an old timer from Gary, Indiana, he or she will have a recollection of Isle of Capri!  Uncle Sam welcomed the guests and did the accounts.  Then he started having heart problems.  Aunt Lily continued doing the impossible, now running the entire business by herself and nursing her husband.

Eventually Uncle Sam died.  I was 10 years old and his was the first funeral I ever attended.  It was most disturbing to see Aunt Lily so distressed over his death.  Sicilians WAIL at funerals and that is what she did. I was very frightened and my parents regretting bringing me along to the funeral.  Aunt Lily came to live with us for a while and eventually she remarried an American, my Uncle Gardner Lum.  Her life changed.  They bought a huge Winnebago and traveled the USA.  They became snowbirds and spent winters in Yuma, Arizona! For the first time since leaving Grotte as a 19 year old bride,  Aunt Lily  went back to Sicily with Uncle Gardner to see all of her relatives.  Uncle Gardner charmed the villagers as he looked at Aunt Lily and declared the only words he knew in Sicilian, “Ti vogliu bene, mugliere mia.”  (I love you, my wife.)  Aunt Lily taught him well!

After 20-some years of marriage, Uncle Gardner died and Aunt Lily was widowed a second time. Even though she says, “It’s no good-a be alone, believe-you-me!”, she continues to be the independent awesome woman she is!  She will be celebrating her 85th birthday in June 2012.  She used to drive a truck that she had been spray painted with the words “Lily’s machina”  (Lily’s machine!)  She is adventurous.  She still drives, and travels solo to Canada and Italy to visit her friends and relatives there.  She still makes bread and is one of the best cooks I know.  She said to me at Christmas when I was with her, ” When you gotta good-a man-a, you gotta good-a life-a.”  She always says she was ever so lucky to have had two good husbands.

Aunt Lily is sharp, remembers everything, and is a great listener.  She is worldly and nothing shocks her. Trust me, I have tested the waters and she is solid in her wisdom and worldliness!  She has seen and heard it all. She is very easy to talk to. She has a lot of friends and her friends are of all ages.  Everyone loves Aunt Lily!  She is independent and is impressed by strong men!  If she meets you and you are a strong man, she will surely have a chore or two in mind for you to do. Maybe she will have you move her sofa, or pull out the oven so she can clean behind it!  Or maybe she will have you till the garden soil, so she can plant her zucchini!   Needless to say, she loves Rick.  His muscles get her thinking about all sorts of chores she can get him to do!

I can’t even imagine a world without my Aunt Lily in it!  I love her way of talking, her expressions, her way of laughing, her sense of humor, her gestures, her smile, her stories, her cooking.  She is so much like my dad and it is comforting to be around her.  I love her and I am so lucky to have her in my life.  We talk on the phone often and I am always the one to end the phone calls. It seems we can talk together for hours if only time permitted!  Enjoy these pictures of my dear aunt:

Uncle Sam and Aunt Lily 1955

Aunt Lily

Aunt Lily

Crying me with my godparents 1962 (my first New Year’s Celebration)

Mom, Zina, and Aunt Lily 1963

My all time favorite photo of Aunt Lily with her nieces and my mom!  I wasn't born yet, but you can see how the girls absolutely love her!

Above: My all time favorite photo of Aunt Lily with my sisters and cousins and my mom! I wasn’t born yet, but you can see how the girls absolutely love her!

Another lovely old photo with my sisters.

Above: Another lovely old photo with my sisters. (I wasn’t born yet!)

Aunt Lily in purple

The Matriarch of our family: Aunt Lily in purple

The good old days in Gary, Indiana: family gathered around the table!

The good old days in Gary, Indiana: family gathered around the table laden with food!

With Toni, Nora, and me

With Toni, Nora, and me

She loved children.  Here she is with her great-great niece!

She loved children. Here she is with her great-great niece!

A very svelte Aunt Lily taking a break from the hard work at her restaurant in Gary, Indiana called Isle of Capri.

A very svelte Aunt Lily taking a break from the hard work at her restaurant in Gary, Indiana called Isle of Capri.

Faded photo, but a good one!  She is holding me in the very back!  She loved to hold me.

Faded photo, but a good one! She is holding me in the very back!  I always look like I am whining or crying!! 

Cooking up a storm in her kitchen with Nora

Cooking up a storm in her kitchen with Nora

This is what we call Aunt Lily's "Wedding Soup", at her house.

This is what we call Aunt Lily’s “Wedding Soup”, at her house.

We made pies together

We made pies together

With her close friend Teresa Amore

With her close friend Teresa Amore

Aunt Lily and Uncle Gardner Lum 1983

Aunt Lily at Ocean Shores, Washington (and lentil soup and her homemade olive and onion bread rolls on the left)

Sicilian Cats II

January 15, 2015
Scruffers Cuddling

Scruffers Cuddling

What better way to make my re-entry into the 2015 World of Blogging than to post some of my favorite photos of cats!  This blog is dedicated to my friends’ father, Daddy Don, who loved cats.  He especially loved Italian cats.  Strays?  He loved them even more!  When in Italy, he’d buy cat food and fed legions of stray cats.

All of the photos below were shot in Sicily:

Cats make you happy! My daddy's cousin and one of his many many cats!

Cats make you happy:  my daddy’s cousin and one of his many cats.

Black Roof Cat

Black Cat Green Eyes

Proud Mamma

Proud Mamma I

Proud Mamma II

Proud Mamma II

Sicilian Cats

Sicilian Cats

Well fed cat

Well fed cat: I live here

Another view of Signore Gatto

Another view of Signore Gatto

Hanging out

Hanging out

Greek Temple Cat

Sicilian Greek-Temple Cat


To Your Health: Salute!

Out all night, snooze all day

rough night, sleep in

Sono stanchissimo (I'm very tired!)

Sono stanchissimo (I’m very tired!)

Sicily Food

October 21, 2014

Simply put FOOD IS LOVE.

Food comes from the earth and to love food is to love the earth.

Food is culture, a story on your plate that unveils thousands of years of history.

Sicily is known as the SPICE OF ITALY.

Sicily today is the product of a melting pot of ancient civilizations.  The ancient Romans referred to her as their “bread basket” because her fertile soil fed the Roman legions.  Sicilian food is a unique blend of the ancient civilizations that, over the years, dominated this crown jewel that sits in the Mediterranean Sea.

Most photos taken of my childhood were taken at the table:  Franny with two missing front teeth sitting at the table smiling at daddy’s camera, ma proudly holding a pan of lasagna -ready to serve her five daughters a meal of love that will feed their souls long after she is gone.

Sicilian food can make you cry.

Food is nourishment for the body and soul.

Photos of food can make you hungry.

Be forewarned:  after viewing this slideshow, you will want to eat, you will want to fill your soul with goodness, you will want to live in Sicily.  You will no longer care if you are fat or thin, you will just want to be happy and filled with the goodness that earth produces and the love that is poured into every bite you eat.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Sicily with Love

October 19, 2014

Our guide Graziella recited a poem, written by an anonymous poet in ancient times, which describes the legend of how Sicily came to be.  She recited it first in the Sicilian dialect and then translated it into English.  I cannot find the Sicilian words, but it was the loveliest of poems.  Here it is in English:

One day God was full of joy.  As he was walking with the saints in heaven, he thought of giving a gift to the world.  From his crown he plucked out a diamond.  He blessed the diamond with the seven elements and placed it in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  The diamond became a beautiful island and the people called her Sicily.

My hope is that the photos below show you some facets of the diamond called Sicily.

If you are at your home computer, turn up the volume to hear Bellini’s Casta Diva from Norma (the smile box slideshow music seldom plays on an iPad or phone).  Bellini was from Catania, located about half an hour from our villa.  The residents of Catania so love Bellini’s music from Norma that they named a pasta dish after her: Pasta alla Norma.  Casta Diva plays twice and, by pure coincidence, the slideshow ends just as Casta Diva comes to an end, the very last note in sync with the very last image!

Food slide show coming your way soon….

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500th Blog Post

October 8, 2014

Yoga mats form a 500!!


While sitting in the hot October Sicilian sun,

While overlooking the Ionian Sea and La Montagna (Mt. Etna),

While looking at my fellow yogis basking in the sun,

While listening to the next-door-villa’s lovely Italian music filling the air,

While feeling my heart sing and my eyes about to overflow with tears of happiness because everything in life at this moment feels so right and good and filled with meaning,

I write my 500th blog post!

basking in the sun

basking in the sun

Yoga and animals- both domestic and wild- and meals and travels and nature and home and friends and family and stories and love fill the blog posts one after another. My only sadness is that I don’t have enough time to record, via words and photos, all the richness that life has to offer.

I thought about the number 500 and the Fiat Cinquecento (Fiat 500) came to mind. I asked John and Marilyn what they knew about the “cinquecento” and they both had things to say… The 500 is small, compact, zippy, and sweet as a car. But the 500 also has its faults. According to Marilyn, her Fiat 500 stalled and died on her one too many times before she gave it up for a more dependable car.  The Cinquecento is perhaps like my blog? Compact, sweet, poignant at times, smooth, but sometimes I don’t reach my goal of at least one weekly posting and the blog postings stall, coming almost to a full halt. Then my life clears up a bit and out come the blog posts, like little capellini being formed by hand, one after another, ready for immediate consumption!

Fiat 500 (Cinquecento)

Fiat 500 (Cinquecento)

Fiat Cinquecento

The Fiat Cinquecento is seen everywhere in Italy

Ricotta-filled capellini.  We made these at the cooking school in Modica yesterday.

Ricotta-filled capellini. We made these at the cooking school in Modica yesterday.

Below is the way I chose to celebrate my 500th blog post! Thank you to the yoga participants on this retreat in Sicily for making photo taking so much fun!

Making the 500 out of our yoga mats!  Perfect!!  We had just enough mats.

Making the 500 out of our yoga mats! Perfect!! We had just enough mats.

500th blog post celebration in Sicily, land of my heart!

500th blog post celebration in Sicily, land of sun and love!








Yeah 500!

Yeah 500!



Sicilian Cats

October 6, 2014


You don’t have to love cats to love these cats!  They are adorable and they are all Sicilian cats.  They seem to be everywhere. They especially love to hang out around the ancient Greek temples or in the Greek theaters or Roman amphitheaters.

I haven’t had much time to blog, but had to post these cat photos.

As I sit and write, everyone has gone to bed after a full day starting out with yoga followed by an  outing with our fantastic guide Graziella, who guided us to Siracusa, Ortigia, and Noto.  Another beautiful day in paradise!  I can’t express enough how blessed I feel to have yet another beautiful group of yogis to share this week with.  I really love our group and everyone is ever so enchanted by Sicily, which-of course- makes me so happy!

It is warm out this evening. The sound of the surf is so calming.  Our villa sits on the bay and I can see the lights of Catania, at the foot of Mt. Etna, dancing and sparkling across the Ionian sea.  The night air smells of a mix of jasmine and the sea.  If the feeling of love had a smell, this would be it!

Enjoy these sweet kitties and know that we are all happy here in Sicily!  Am loving every single day here.  Our groups have been fantastic!!

















Di Blu, Dipinto di Blu

October 5, 2014

In 1958, Domenico Modugno, singer from the small Sicilian island of Lampedusa, wrote the famous song Volare.   My guess is that most everyone knows the song, right? But what most people outside of Italy don’t know is that the original title of the song was Di Blu, Dipinto di Blu, which translates to “Blue, Painted in Blue”, blue referring to the color of the Sicilian sky Modugno loved so much.

Don swimming and various hues of blue in the background

Don swimming and various hues of blue in the background

This very morning, just after breakfast, I heard a splash and turned towards the pool in time to see Don, my water-loving friend, dive into the pool. I got a great photo of him swimming with the various hues of blue in the background and the song “Volare” came to me (photo above).

Later, a few of us went swimming in the sea. It was so salty I couldn’t help but float.Would you believe I forgot to bring my camera along?  I missed out on capturing the images of a cute teenager  sitting on the steps  leading to the sandy beach, talking to her boyfriend.  And just beyond the teens, her father and grandfather were fishing off the dock.  The old man’s eyes were as blue as the sea and he had a hard lean look about him.  I talked to him and he softened up a bit when I spoke to him in the Sicilian dialect. He showed me the few fish he had caught.   And, just a few hours later, while back at the villa,  a thunderstorm quickly rolled in with torrents of rain.

Yesterday was a day of vicissitudes. I sadly said goodbye to the yoga retreat participants from Week I, met up with my friend Sebastiano, and off to Catania I went. Later Sebastiano dropped Marilyn and me off at the airport where, eventually, we met up with the second group.  And I found myself feeling great joy in welcoming the second group.

From the day in Catania

From the day in Catania

The old university in Catania

The old university in Catania

I haven’t had much time to blog and am determined to post a few photos and include some information about Sicily. The retreat is going well. The yoga sessions have been powerful and doing the sessions outside in this beautiful setting is an exceptional experience.  During these few rain storms, we have a perfect place to practice yoga under an awning, still overlooking the sea and stormy skies.  I take advantage of the walls to do yoga using Wall as Prop!  Got to be clever with these things…

Rainy day yoga:  using Wall as Prop

Rainy day yoga: using Wall as Prop

I am quite fond of the ancient Sicilian symbol, La Trinacria. This image has the face of Medusa, who has the ability to transform bad spirits into stone.  Medusa is surrounded by three legs, each leg representing the three corners of the island of Sicily.  When the Romans took over Sicily, they took the ancient symbol of La Trinacria and added Wheat to the design.  Sicily, for the Romans, was the “bread basket” of the empire because her wheat fed the Roman legions.  (first image below has now wheat…and is a more modern version)



The Greeks brought Olives and Grapes, olive oil production and wine production!  The olive oil was used in foods as well as for illuminating the Greek temples, whose ruins still dot the island.



Pasta e Vino

Pasta e Vino

Greek Temple Pillars embedded in Siracusa's Cathedral.

Greek Temple Pillars embedded in Siracusa’s Cathedral walls.  This very same Greek Temple was also previously transformed into a mosque under Arab dominion.

light in the cathedral in Siracusa

Greek Temple turned into a Catholic Cathedral: I love the natural light in the cathedral in Siracusa

Villa Saracena

September 28, 2014

Hello from Villa Saracena.  Last evening’s first yoga session of the week was dreamy.  We focused on stretching our lower backs, hip flexors, and shoulders.  We did a lot of side bending and yoga poses to decompress the well-traveled body.  We focused on the breath and what a pleasure to breathe in the clean pure air coming off the bay.

We face the bay and Mount Etna while doing yoga on the lawn.  We watched the sun set and got to see exactly what Homer described as the Wine-Dark Sea.  The water takes on the color of dark wine as the sun sets.  It is breathtaking to see.

So Hum

I am that.

I am the blue sky, the sound of the waves, the fresh air.

I am the fresh air, the wind, the breeze on my skin.

I am Mt. Etna, the birds, the different shades of blue.

So Hum.

I am the Greek stones revealing ancient times, the seahawks circling overhead, the oleander in bloom.

I am present, presence itself.

I am my breath.  I am at peace.  I am love.  I am alive.

All the while I am reminded of the retreat I gave in Pantelleria a few years ago.  The scented air, the flowering oleanders, the caper plants, dwarf palms, the jasmine in bloom, and the wind blowing my hair into chaos, the wind blowing my mat and flipping it again and again until it gathers around my ankles make me feel more rooted than ever on this ancient soil.

The grounds are beautiful.  Greek amphora decorate the residence.  When the villa was built 40 years ago, the construction crew came across an archaeological site made of marble.  The site  today is cleverly integrated into the design of the garden.  We will meet the owner of the villa on Wednesday and will have a chance to ask more about the site findings.  The stones lead me to believe the site could be the remains from when Sicily was a part of Greece.  I wonder if I am looking at the foundation and stone remnants from the columns of a Greek temple?

The weather is fantastic, warm and sunny.  I hope this gorgeous weather continues into next week!  There is a path, just beyond the archaeological ruins that leads down to the beach.  A few of us will swim in the bay in a little while.  The Bay of Catania is part of the Ionian Sea and the Ionian Sea is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea. I am happy to report that there are no jelly fish in these waters…at least that is what the caretaker told me.  I will report otherwise if I come across a single one!

So a few photos:

Our view at the villa while doing yoga!  Mount Etna across the bay.

Our view at the villa while doing yoga! Mount Etna across the bay.

Dinner: Starters

Dinner: Starters

For the bruschetta

Topping for the bruschetta


Sicilian Porro Tart (Leek Pie)

Insalata (and yes, there were other dishes such as roasted chicken and later, pistacchio icecream made with old fashioned way, with real pistacchios

Insalata ..and yes, there were other dishes such as roasted chicken and later, pistacchio ice-cream made with old fashioned way, with real pistacchio.

7am this morning..on my way to lead the meditation

7am this morning..on my way to lead meditation

morning coffee

morning coffee

Drew, Ursula, Tom, and Ursula this morning after yoga

Drew, Ursula, Tom, and Ursula this morning after yoga


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