Waiting for Elizabeth and Roy

Hi, kids – 

I’ve heard that there’s still no swimming because of the Mississippi floods.  So, what do you do instead, Ceci, Finn, Gus, and Kieran? Mary, are you in a kiddie pool in South Bend? I hope so.

You know I am in Sicily, right? In a couple days, I’ll meet Auntie Elizabeth and Uncle  Roy here.  Over the weekend, I was in Palermo, which is a city with as many people as Minneapolis and St Paul put together. Palermo has many wonderful old buildings and hardly any Mafia (ask mom or dad). On Saturday while I was eating dinner outside near a church, I looked up and saw —


I left Palermo Monday morning, but not before this…


 And this (on the left, below). I know it looks like fruit, but in Palermo this “Martorana,” or Marzipan, is everywhere. It’s made of lots of sugar and ground almonds. I looked, but didn’t bite. 

 The other photo is one I took of some girls racing home – I was walking back from dinner a couple days ago, when I was staying in the village of Cinisi. I think they’re about Ceci’s age, don’t you?

So, now that I’m in Cianciana, I can show you the first  place I’m staying, waiting for Elizabeth and Roy. Here’s a 23-second video of the kitchen and stairs. As I say in the video, everything is very narrow (and steep!), I think because the walls are so thick. Can you guess why the houses are built with this kind of wall?

(Hint: it is very hot here!)


Yes, it’s very warm here during the day. Maybe some houses in Cianciana have air conditioning, but mostly, it’s fans. They work fine.

 In the early evening, I  see this little fountain from the kitchen and from the balcony —

Viewdi Eev's


I’ve been trying for an hour to upload a short video of the BLUE SMURF gelato I saw when I stopped at the cafe-bar this morning. The video isn’t working, so I’ll try it another time. I think it will make you laugh!

I miss you all very much, but know you are doing a lot of fun things this summer.



Kids for a Cause: Your Triathlon!

Dear Mary, maybe next year you will come watch your big cousins in this race. This morning they swam, biked, and ran their hearts out.
Dear Kieran, Augustine, Finnian, and Ceci,
You were amazing this morning —

Look who I met as I walked to the race site!

3 w.bikesJPG


Look who I found, paying close attention during doing their pre-swim stretches – 

Then Mom and Gus had a talk about swim strategy — 

I missed your swim prep, Finn, but found Ceci.  Swimming  is serious business for you older kids.

You thought it was just lots of fun, didn’t you, Kieran?

Kieran: swim prep!


…and here you are  being very serious – 

I ran from the pool just in time to catch you after you transitioned to your bike —

Kieran, transitioning

Finn and Ceci, you  were too fast for me – I missed your  bike event, entirely! But I caught Gus finishing the course. In this picture, you have just dismounted, and you are walking your bike, thinking about your run…
Gus: end of bike race

I saw some of the run,  but you were all too fast, so no photos this year.

Then, as  the rain began, FIVE CRONIN FINISHERS took a quick bow.           Congratulations, All!FIVE CRONIN FINISHERS



5 Videos: Bullocks, Goats, and some art, too


Hi, Mary, Kieran, Gus, Finn, and Ceci —

Look what I met last week! They were on the road near my hut.

And these,too —

One very hot afternoon in the village, we stopped for some coconut water. It’s called “Tender Coconut.” Watch  this woman slash the coconut! This one, for my friend, was too old – no water – so we just ate the coconut meat.

I met this piper on the beach one Sunday afternoon when I first arrived. It is at the Bay of Bengal.

This young woman was decorating the sidewalk outside the Internet Café in Pondicherry.  She’s not using a stick of sidewalk chalk. It’s powder. Look how fast she works!

Incredible! INDIA

Dear Ceci, Finn, Gus, Kieran, and Mary – PeacockAt the ashram, you never know when you’ll come upon a peacock. They move in and out of the trees. This one moved really fast, once he saw me!


People visit this temple in Pondicherry when they have diseases, especially Chicken Pox. The priest gives them leaves from a Neem tree. The leaves help cure them. They help dry out the blisters (ask mom and dad –). 

I saw people with Chicken Pox coming here at night.

A few times, I saw people with Chicken Pox coming to this Hindu temple. I took this photo before I realized I was taking a picture of the people who sleep here. They don’t have Chicken Pox, but they don’t have homes, either. They rest here when the sun is really hot.Temple to GaneshaIn this other temple the priest accepts people’s flowers. Then he chants and rings a brass bell. Except for those sounds, the temple is very still.  Everyone is quiet  here, even small children. 

Speaking of children — 

I helped this teacher with “Alice the Camel!” I wish I could teach barefoot in Minnesota…

We just finished  "Alice the Camel"!

We just finished “Alice the Camel”!

Uncle Matt’s Gus-Speak + in Vienna


(sometimes if you double-click on the pictures, they’ll enlarge)

Hi, Ceci, Finn, Gus, and Kieran – I think  your uncle/Baby Mary’s dad sounds as if he’s doing Gus-Speak, don’t you?

(he was ordering Auntie Lei, Baby Mary, and me some chocolate pastries!)

We passed many pastry shops and candy stores before we decided on that one.  


Look at the gingerbread!

IMG_5555On our way to dinner at a really old restaurant called The 12 Apostles (there’s a pretty good video on that link, ESPECIALLY IF YOU TURN OFF THE SOUND), we walked through one of the Christmas Markets. Auntie Lei & Uncle Matt were bundled up…

…and look who else was ready for the cold!

In this next picture, can you see the mug Uncle Matt is offering Mary? It’s Gluhwein, an Adult Beverage. He was just pretending. I think.IMG_5552

At night, everyone walks in the streets, and every street has different  lighted decorations. Here’s my favorite: 

Lights like chandeliers!

Lights like chandeliers!

We stopped for awhile to listen to some Christmas music — in Spanish! Ceci and Finn, you’ll recognize this song.

More Holy Week, even a Running Madonna!

Dear Ceci, Finn, Gus, Kieran, and Mary –

I can see from Facebook pictures that you had fun on Easter (even Mary, who had a bad cold?). When we Skype, you must tell me all about it.

I already wrote you about Easter @ Auntie Elizabeth’s studio  in Cianciana, but I couldn’t fit in everything.  Today I’m going to back up and tell you some more about Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus died.

During the morning and afternoon of Good Friday, the townspeople walk in a long procession to a hill, called Monte Calvario, at the edge of town. These photographs are from there (click on each one, and you can read a little more).

On Good Friday night, the men you saw walking down from Monte Calvario return there. They take the statue down from the cross, place it in a glass coffin, and carry it down, through the town, to the main church. It all happens very late at night. That is one reason I didn’t go (but I heard them!).
The other reason I didn’t go is that IT TAKES THE MEN CARRYING THE STATUE 3 HOURS! Here is a video someone else made. You probably don’t want to watch the whole 5 minutes, but a minute will give you an idea of what I heard. The “Lamento” is the very slow song they begin to sing a minute into the video – listen. I think you’ll hear how sad it is.

Can you guess why it takes the men 3 hours? They walk 3 steps forward, and 1 step backwards, the whole way, the whole time carrying the statue.So, Good Friday is very sad, and Holy Saturday, too. Everything just feels empty. And then at Mass on Holy Saturday, as I wrote before, there is great excitement, and the bells ring, celebrating the resurrection.


At noon, in the main street, everybody in the village goes to watch for 3 statues:
the Risen Christ (San Salvatore)

Mary (Madonna), and St. Michael, S. Michele,
perform the last Easter scene. Three times, the d’Angelo family men carry their family’s angel statue from from S. Salvatore down the street to…

I will see some of you next week, and I already saw Mary this weekend (so big! so loving to talk!), and will see her in a month. I can’t wait!



SUN & SEA & FOOD in Sicily


We stopped for lunch along the Ionian Sea.  Our waiter  said this calamari  had just been caught today.  It tasted delicioius — so fresh!

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge)
Dear Chloe, Ceci, Finn, Gus, Kieran, and Mary –

I am writing this to Chloe Schmidt, too, because it’s her grandma I’m travelling with, and I’m pretty sure Chloe would like to see where her grandma has been this week.

If you look at a map of Sicily, you’ll see that it is surrounded by water.  It is an island very near the bottom of the “boot” of Italy. We have been traveling along the coast of Sicily. This means we have been driving along the sea and through tunnels and over mountain passes, to see all the beautiful towns and cities. Today we passed the volcano, Mt. Etna. Do you know about volcanoes? If not, be sure to ask mom or dad. Look closely at this picture, and you will see the smoke from the small eruptions that have been coming from Etna this week.


Yesterday we went to an outdoor MARKET. It was as big the Fairgrounds and sells everything, from small animals to all kinds of food and clothes, to toothpaste and bracelets.

Bunnies and birds were for sale at the market.

Bunnies and birds were for sale at the market.


Spidey at the market!

Peggy wished we had a kitchen yesterday, because she is a great cook, and the market had amazing seafood.

Peggy wished we had a kitchen yesterday, because she is a great cook, and the market had amazing seafood.

We just arrived in Cefalu today. It probably looks a little like Florida or Mexico to you. To us, it seems like the most beautiful place we’ve visited in Sicily. Here is the picture I just took from the balcony of our little apartment:

Cefalu vista


(Click on thumbnails to enlarge them)

Dear Ceci, Finn, Gus, Kieran and Mary,

I know you are really busy on Easter, and the days leading up to it, too.  Here in Cianciana, where I’m staying in Auntie Elizabeth’s Studio, things are also busy, even though Easter morning began very slowly here, with this sunrise outside the window. It’s actually two doors, with windows, and they open onto my little balcony, so I was able to stand outside the window to take this photo. :

Sunrise, Via Catania

Sunrise, Via Catania

One thing I noticed is that  everybody has been cleaning, during Holy Week!  They throw rugs over their balconies, and then beat them with a broom or stick. Also, I’ve noticed much more laundry handing out during Holy Week, than during other weeks.

The village's main street is the widest, so it's the best place to hang laundry.

The village’s main street is the widest, so it’s the best place to hang laundry.

On Good Friday, many children in town were in the big procession and play that take place every year on this day.

Cianciana Children, waiting for Jesus.

Cianciana Children, waiting for Jesus.

At the main church on Good Friday, a huge statue of Jesus was laid on a bed, and on Holy Saturday night – in the middle of Mass – they took it off the bed, and then this statue appeared over the main altar:

Risen Christ, Easter Sunday

At this side altar, where I go every morning, everything is all set for the great feast. Do you see what’s woven into the rug? Look carefully!

 Agnello Pasquale

Agnello Pasquale

No Easter bunnies, here, but Easter lambs! In fact, sweet ones are baked and sold in all the pastry shops in Cianciana (and all over Sicily – and Italy, too!). These delicious little cakes have marzipan and pistachios inside them. I went to my favorite pastry shop and asked for one. The owner, whose daughter lives upstairs over the pastry shop, makes these Easter Lambs. Here is Gaetano, carefully wrapping up my Easter Lamb:

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And here are the lambs, made by Gaetano’s daughter:
Agnello di Pasqua

Easter Lambs are very, very sweet, believe me. If you five had been here, I could have shared mine with all of you, even baby Mary, who, I hear, is sometimes eating solid food! I miss you all. HAPPY EASTER!

Love, E.B.

Kids’ Feast!

Hi, Ceci, Finn, Gus, Kieran, and Baby Mary – I miss you, both families, EVERY day, but this afternoon  I thought of you especially, when I went to the celebration of St. Joseph. YOU WOULD HAVE LOVED BEING HERE, I know!

carpetMany of the houses had these carpets with a photograph of St. Joseph hanging over the railings of their balcony.

Palms & Oranges for S. Giuseppe

Palms & Oranges for S. Giuseppe

The main street was lined with palms that looked as if they were growing oranges!

WHAT are these girls looking at???

WHAT are these girls looking at???



 I think  you would have liked some of the food, too


VERY spirited horses lead the Holy Family

VERY spirited horses lead the Holy Family

I always thought Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus were on a donkey, during The Flight Into Egypt, but today, it was a horse – in fact, 4 horses.  Well, who knows, maybe the Holy Family had  a horse?  Anyhow, I’ll post a short video (of the horses) on FB –

The Holy Family

The Holy Family minus Jesus (at least I didn’t see him anywhere)

The priest spoke (I have a video for Facebook, because  it won’t work on this page). After that, people went up and had some of the special bread for the day. I was in the morning procession, where we picked up the bread and marched with  it to this altar on the main street of the village!



Finn, Gus, and Kieran, this one’s for you —