Tuesday, August 30, 2011

sitting up. sorta.

I just discovered the sweetest website with handmade toys and clothes for children.  And everything is "knitted by hand"!  Am I more amazed by the fact that they can charge $48 for a toy or that they are only charging $48 for such intricate knitting?  Can't decide.  But I do love these dolls!

Anyway, back to our own hand-knit doll baby: Lena.  (See Psalm 139:13)  Slowly but surely, she's getting this sitting up business.  Lunchtime today, for example.  Things often begin well with Lena sitting up cute as can be:

And then the forward tilt begins.  She can prop herself up on her arms for a minute.

She achieves her goal!  Toy in mouth.  Hands are otherwise occupied.

Ohhh and then we crash.  Soft landing on Mommy.  Pick ourselves up and try again!


Lena's growing and changing so quickly I can hardly keep up with recording it on time, either here or to family or in my journal.  She's already learning to sit up... perhaps there'll be a blog post about that later today. Last night while I was helping my little baby learn to sit up I commented to Elliott that it makes me a little sad to see her doing it.  She's growing up!  

But anyway, Lena's not obsessed with sitting up.  Not yet.  Right now her obsession is her feet.  She can reach them.  And they taste good.  Mmmm...

I took this series of photos while we were hanging out on base recently. 

"Hey Lena, can you show us how you can grab your feet?  Happy baby pose?"

"Okay, if you'd like to see.  First I reeeeach..."

"... and then grab.  Let me get organized here... hmmm..."

"... and then I stretch out like this.  Hey, some cool kids are walking by, lemme just check them out for a sec..."

"Lena!  Earth to Lena!"

"Oh yeah, hi you!  I remember you!  You're the one with the milk!"

"So yeah, my foot trick... aww, you know, you're so great, I just love you."

Monday, August 29, 2011

Baby goes to Vicenza

(I am in love with this picture.  And this baby girl!)

This week Elliott has a training course in Vicenza, Italy.  Vicenza a beautiful city nestled between Venice and Verona:

Just outside Vicenza is a large U.S. Army base, and that's where we are for the week.  Elliott has an annual training course for the Public Health Command (which includes the Veterinary Corps).

Lena and I have a few different things to keep us occupied:
  • a great hotel suite
  • internet in our room (don't have that in our temporary housing in Sicily!)
  • more of War and Peace and Good Night Moon 
  • a bit of exploring
We'll be here at this training course until Friday morning.  At that point we're relocating to a studio apartment in Venice, where we'll spend a long weekend.

We caught glimpses of Venice from the airplane window yesterday.  Wow.  Venice has always been a watery, magical mystery in my mind.  Are all the roads really canals?  How does all that architecture stay up?  Is it a murky place of mossy stone steps and quiet alleyways reminiscent of Vivaldi "Summer" concertos or is it hot and overcrowded with chubby tourists?

Soon I'll know the answers to these questions, but until then, the glimpses of glistening waterways and piercing spires, a shadow in the bright morning sun against a sparkling Adriatic, will keep me dreaming.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dress Photoshoot

Before Lena was born, my mom and I sewed her a little outfit: dress, bonnet, and bloomers.  Every now and then I put the dress on her just to see if it fits yet.  At 4.5 months, we're getting close.

Lena isn't always amenable to photo shoots, though.  Things started out beautifully this time.

When my mom first spotted the fabric (not Liberty of London, but a good look-a-like), she sent me pictures from the middle of the fabric store; she knew it was just what I was looking for.  Hours of decisions and stitching and ornery buttonholes later, she is right.

For the next photo, I tried on the hat, which still needs to be adjusted to her head circumference whenever the dress does fit her.  Lena's still looking cute, but the charm is fading...

And after that photo she decided it was time to flip...

... and the photo shoot ended like this. 

Maybe I should have tried on the bloomers too?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lena Swims in Ice Melt and Thinks About Eating Granita

Earlier this week Elliott was still enjoying his four-day weekend and we were ready for more adventure.  Sunday had been a quiet day with church, a nap for Lena (usual) and me (very unusual) in the afternoon, and then community group with some friends.  So on Monday, rested and ready to go, we paged through a guide book and looked over a map.

We chose to go to Gole dell'Alcantara.  Gole means "gorge" in Italian.  The guidebooks described it as a green and lovely place with a cool, rushing stream.  Without much more to go on, we got in the rental car and took off along winding Sicilian roads.

(By the way, sometime I'm going to take a video while Elliott drives around here.  It's exciting.)

After about an hour of driving we found the gorge.  For 8 euro we were admitted to the trails around the gorge.  A half-dozen lookout points along the hiking trails revealed glimpses of a sparkling river below and a growing number of Italian families coming to sunbathe and relax.

This spot along the trail reminded us of our favorite place at Laity Lodge, a retreat center in Texas that we visited last summer before Elliott was deployed.  The water is deeper, wider, and much warmer in southwest Texas, but the setting is otherwise similar.

The gray volcanic stone and ice-blue water made such a lovely contrast.

Eventually we walked down a couple hundred stairs into the gorge.  By then it was about 10am and full of people!  The water was deceptively cold; I could hardly stand it, but I guess I was one of the few people who felt that way.

We found a secluded spot to eat the snack I'd packed.  Elliott then dipped Lena's toes in the water.

She thought that was okay.

Gole dell'Alcantara is fairly close to Taormina, the lovely town I visited a few weeks ago with my friends and their children.  Elliott and I had the afternoon ahead of us and were ready for a good lunch.  We drove the back way to Taormina and then wound up the hills until we could park at the top of the town.  The view was, as always, spectacular!

After some guidebook searching and other wanderings we decided upon a pizzeria with an outdoor balcony overlooking the water.  Lena relaxed on the patio floor and charmed all the camerieri (waiters).

I ordered a pizza with capers, anchovies, olives... and no cheese!  I was devastated.  I'll read the menu better next time.  Elliott ordered a pizza with smoked ham,"Indian corn" (by which I think they mean the corn that the American Indians ate), and cheese.  We shared over 0.5L of the house wine. 

Lena's getting more and more giggly.  Elliott can really get her going when he tickles her neck!

Later we wandered about Taormina, enjoying the architecture and the potted plants on every balcony.

The cruise ships had deposited hundreds of tourists in Taormina that afternoon.  Doesn't this woman look like she's straight out of a D.H. Lawrence novel?  (I pick D.H. Lawrence only because he and his wife lived in Taormina for awhile about a century ago.)

A pretty street sign near the famous ancient amphitheater.  The amphitheater hosts all kinds of concerts, including Elton John earlier this summer and the NYC Ballet last week.   

More architecture and pretty balconies.

Wares for sale. I want to get one of those mini umbrellas for Lena.

A case of gelati and granite with Taormina reflected in the case.

To finish up our trip to Taormina, we went to the best granite shop in town... or at least the best one I've heard of in all of my two trips there.  Bam Bar, as it's called, prides itself on it's granite artigenale, or handmade granite.

I chose limone e fragola (lemon and strawberry) and Elliott chose limone e kiwi (you guess!).  They were fabulous, fresh, and tangy.  Elliott's granita was full of tiny black kiwi seeds; I even found a lemon seed in my limone

Our neighbors were enthralled with Lena.

Lena thought about eating kiwi granita, but still doesn't seem interested enough.  Pretty soon she'll be able to begin pureed fruits and veggies, but we're waiting till she's really opening her mouth eagerly or grabbing the spoon first.  She seems okay with that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Climbing an Erupting Volcano

This past Saturday we drove up to Mt Etna, the sweeping volcano that dominates the skyline on the eastern coast of Sicily.  I thought we were going to explore some quiet hiking trails around the base.  Elliott thought we were going to climb the whole thing.  

We pretty much climbed the whole thing.

But there was more involved than just climbing steep gravel trails.  There were ash clouds and eruptions, cable cars and anxiety.  

When we pulled into the parking lot, Elliott noticed a dark cloud overhead.  Within a few seconds volcanic ash began to fall from the volcano.  I thought volcanic ash was thin, light, and floating.  Not so.  Look at the stuff in Elliott's hand:

Everyone began to run for cover as the chunks of rock began to fall faster and grow larger.  The biggest pieces we saw were the size of golf balls.  They could cause some damage, but they didn't weight nearly as much as golf balls; the rock was very porous.  Witness a video Elliott took here.

After about 10 minutes, the slow volcanic rain subsided.  Elliott had meanwhile learned that there were 2 ways to get to the top of Mt Etna:
  • pay 52 euro ($75) to take a cable car and bus 
  • walk all the way up for free
Perhaps needless to say, we decided to walk.

The trail began running parallel to the winter ski lifts.  It will be fun to come back when there's a blanket of snow!

We climbed higher.  People had told us "hiking Etna is like walking in sand."  This isn't true.  It's like walking up a steep gravel path.  For hours.  And hours.  You don't slide backwards or lose ground if you stick to the paths, but you might if you off-road it and try to hike up the loose gravel. 

Within about 15 minutes of steep climbing, we were beginning to look at the cable cars with longing.

The landscape quickly turned gray and monotonous.  Then suddenly we found this little guy on our path.  A ladybug never seemed so out of place or so vibrant.

We walked and walked and walked.  Up and up and up.  I noted that we'd have a quite a monopoly on rock if we were playing Settlers of Catan.  I'll trade you rock for sheep... or brick... or wheat... anything, actually.  I've got the rock port this game!

We eventually reached a rest stop after about 2 hours of climbing.  The cable car stopped here and everyone spilled out into a restaurant and little souvenir area.  Jars of honey sat on a counter for taste testing, and we sampled a half-dozen different flavors: orange and lemon and eucalyptus and nut.  All so removed from this desolate place.

We ate lunch and then continued on for the second half of our climb.  We had left the green Plain of Catania and the glorious coastline far behind, but through Elliott's binoculars we could still make out the base and the little town of Motta far, far away.

Towards the end of the hike we off-roaded it a little bit to try to cut out some climbing town.  Does this give you any idea of how steep it was?  At this point especially Elliott really had to encourage me... the end was nowhere in sight.

And then finally we came upon a cluster of rough terrain vans, the type that had been sweeping by us on the road all morning filled with tourists.  We'd reached the top!

And there she is!  The top of Mt Etna as close as you're allowed to get.

Suddenly as we watched there was a gush of hot orange lava on the side of the volcano, and then a boom like a distant cannon and a black cloud burst from the mouth of the volcano!  Everyone gasped and jumped back as dark ash spilled forth into a mushroom cloud over the mountain.  Elliott grabbed his camera and began to film.  You can watch that video here.

After a time the rumbling stopped and we had a few minutes to take pictures.

Lena peered out from her safe spot.

About that time the guides/bus drivers received messages through their walkie-talkies that the top was now closed.  They began to herd us off the top of the mountain and down the steep slopes again.  We slipped onto one of the vans unnoticed and were able to ride halfway down the volcano that way.  Along the road the guides stopped the vans next to weary hikers and told them to turn around, the top is chiuso, closed.  We looked at each other, grateful we'd had the reward at the top instead of being turned away in the middle of our exhausting climb.

At the bottom of the mountain, aching in every muscle, we pulled off our shoes and socks.  There's some more volcanic ash to take home!

We were hesitant to head right home when we had already driven so far to see Etna.  We'd heard about a gorgeous little town near the mountain, and so we took a circuitous route home in order to see Zafferano Etnea.  We were not disappointed... it is the loveliest little town we've discovered thus far!

We bought some of that delicious honey (orange flavor, or arancia, for us this time) in the town as well as some fresh bread.  Ahhh what a sweet reward at the end of the day!  We dipped hunks of bread in the honey as we explored a beautiful park that looked out over the valley and the coastline.

And finally we headed home for base, massaging aching legs.  I threatened the whole way up that I'd never climb Mt Etna again, but already when I look up at her each day, I wonder...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...