Monday, August 31, 2009


I remember so many details about that last day, Mum, but most of all I remember stroking your fingers - your lovely, long, tapering fingers, pianist's fingers, the fingers that had so often wiped my tears - and knowing that I would never be able to stroke them again.

Then, with pitiless speed after so long an illness, three short breaths and you were gone.

Except that they are not gone, those who live in our hearts; as you live in mine, wherever I am, day by day.

"Bright be the place of thy soul" - Byron.

For Violet Rosamund Eggleton, 19.10.1917 - 31.8.1993


The postman, who comes round for English lessons on Monday evenings, spotted it first: "C'è uno scorpione!" he cried as he bounded up the stairs and into the flat. Now, anything spider-like scares me but I bravely took a closer look [with the postman beside me]. These are the pictures I managed to take before running away:

The second and third pictures have, of course, been enlarged [because I wasn't getting any closer] and in these the thing looks like a lizard, albeit a nasty one, doesn't it? I don't like the upturned tail, though.

I spoke to a friend who said it's probably a gecko, although scorpions do come out in the humidity, and it doesn't help that the word scorpione can refer to both a scorpion and a gecko in Sicily. The postman said it was definitely a scorpion type of scorpion and he didn't volunteer to deal with it!

So are there any gecko or scorpion experts out there? What do you think?

Non-British readers and you young things can find out about the original Lurcio here.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Last night I had supper in the company of an 86-year-old man: He entered the garden where we were seated and, in a move worthy of Fred Astaire, threw his walking stick onto the bamboo, sat down and proceeded to regale us with tales of old Modica. This gentleman has more energy than I do!

And how about this for an incongruous, yet delicious combination? Peach granita served with melt-in-the-mouth, crumbly Scottish shortbread [and served on a traditional pasta-making tray]. Viva fusion cooking!

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Spotted in a window display in Modica today.

I thought it would be fun to have a poll about what makes us wake up, so please take a moment to do the poll in the right sidebar if you can.



Francesco de Gregori - Sempre e per sempre

Friday, August 28, 2009


It's Friday and time for my friend mountaingirl's Photo Challenge. This week's theme is "eight".

Here are 7 bidoni of water lined up ready for the next Sicilian water crisis:

And here is another one on the balcony. It lives behind Gilbert Grenouille the plantholder:

That makes eight!


Marie-Laure and David left Sicily yesterday so on Wednesday evening I cooked them a Sicilian feast.

For the antipasti below I bought spiced mushrooms and grilled carciofi [artichokes] and made the filling for the cherry tomatoes. This is what you do: sit yourself down and halve some cherry tomatoes. Then scoop out pulp and seeds with a tiny spoon. Sprinkle them with seasalt and leave upside-down on kitchen paper to drain. Then rinse and dry them and fill with a mixture of bel paese cheese, basil, seasoning, lemon juice and white wine which you have whizzed up with a hand blender or in a processor.

To make these antipasti halve a melon and scoop out the seeds. Then drain some tinned grilled peppers and courgettes and arrange them on cocktail sticks as artistically as you can. "Hmmm - that looks fine but what shall I put in the middle?" I asked myself. "Olives!" I told me and that's what I did:

Antipasto of melon and Parma ham:

I bought Sicilian classico bread and pane arabo.

For a pasta course, I made herbed risotto cake. You can serve it cold or at room temperature and so spend more time with your guests.

Main courses: Involtini di maiale [these are pork rolls stuffed with pancetta and gherkins] one of my favourite recipes from Marcella Hazan's Marcella Cucina. You can prepare the involtini a few hours ahead and refrigerate them. Then all you have to do is roll them in flour, slosh in the wine and tomatoes and cook. [Marcella says simmer for 30 mins but I find it does no harm if you leave it on a low flame for an hour.]

Grilled chicken scaloppine with Parma ham and sage leaves. So quick and simple!

Then I served fresh fruit

followed by strawberry tiramisù. There have been no strawberries about since the beginning of July and when I went shopping on Wednesday morning I thought I'd have to turn it into a peach tiramisù. However, the Cooking Fates were on my side for lo and behold, in the supermarket there were strawberries!

We're not finished yet, though, for my guests had espied this delicious semifreddo in one of Modica's many dolcerie:

Finally I served a selection of my home-made liqueurs and, instead of hot coffee, offered these [chilled] which Marie-Laure and David agreed are a brilliant invention:

Give my love to Wales, Marie-Laure and David!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


All about wine this week. Match the proverbs 1 - 6 with their meanings a - f. For answers, highlight the space beneath where it says, "Highlight below for answers" - yes, really, they are there!

1. Vinu turcu è buonu vinu.

2. Cui s'havi a 'mbriacari, di vinu bonu l'havi a fari.

3. Di sittèmmiru ad agustu vivi lu vino vecchiu e lassa stare lu mustu.

4. Latti e vinu, vilenu finu.

5. Lu vinu è meli e diventa feli.

6. Vinu biancu 'nforza lu ciancu.

a. Wine is honey that can turn into bile.

b. If you drink milk after wine, you'll come to a bad end.

c. Undiluted wine is good wine.

d. From September to August, drink old wine and leave the must alone.

e. White wine strengthens your hips.

f. If you are going to get drunk, do it with good wine.

Highlight below for answers:
1c ["turcu" in the sense of "Saracen", ie., wine that has not been diluted with water for Communion], 2f [ie, don't compromise yourself for nothing], 3d [because must-making is the first process in the making of new wine], 4b, 5a [a warning of the effects of abusing wine], 6e.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Ever since I came to live in Sicily, I've been trying to get back to Agrigento, whose breathtaking Valle dei Templi should surely be listed among the Wonders of the World. When I first visited Modica, it was just possible to do the journey to Agrigento and back by bus in a day, provided you left Modica at 5 am, changed buses at Gela and were prepared to commence the return journey at around 3 pm. That journey is no longer possible as the connection times have changed and I'm afraid the situation is another example of a lack of understanding of what tourists want on the part of tourism firms in the area. So when my friends Marie-Laure and David announced that they were planning to travel to Agrigento today by car and invited me to go along, I was only too happy to accept.

We left Modica at 08.30 and made straight for the Valle dei Templi, where we arrived just before 11 am. Marie-Laure and David had been amazed, as I had been on my first visit to Agrigento in 1992, to see the Temples rising above us as we drove along. We immediately walked up to the Tempio della Concordia, the best preserved of the Temples, dating, it is believed, from about 430 BC. There has been some restoration work on the lower part of the Temple and I had not seen it without girders around it for many years. And now here it was, its honey-coloured stone gleaming in the sun. We were silent for a while as we gazed at perfection. We spent a good hour at this site and then decided not to venture up or down to the other Temples as it was so hot along the hill [it must have been about 44 C] that we thought we would keel over! We therefore admired the other main temples from afar before repairing to a restaurant we had heard of, La Trizzera, for a much needed lunch.

And now I'd like to share with you some of the images of the day:

I was a hit with the owner of this traditional cart and could have spent the rest of my life in Agrigento! [The notice asks you to leave an offering "for the horse" if you want to be photographed with the cart as a background.]

Tempio della Concordia:

Marie-Laure and me. We'd been discussing shoes Aristotle!

Now lunch: we all had cavatieddi pasta with a tomato and aubergine sauce

then Marie -Laure and I had veal scaloppine

while David had chosen from the fish menu:

Fruit was served for dessert

and then cassata:

Marie-Laure and David outside La Trizzera:

Altogether a fabulous day with great friends!

Monday, August 24, 2009


Rosa [my cleaning lady, confidante and friend] has returned to Italy from her holiday in Albania. She had a good time, looks well and happy and was thrilled to learn that so many of you had wished her well on this blog. Rosa was as delighted to bring me this lovely gift today as I was to receive it. She tells me that her home town, the port city of Vlore [Valona in Italian] is beautiful and that the ancient tree in the foreground of the picture is a glorious sight to behold. Can you see the two-headed eagle of the Albanian flag depicted at the bottom of the tree?

I am invited to visit Albania with the family when they go next year and that is something I would really like to do. Rosa is convinced that I would like Vlore as it is a city where no one goes to bed before 5 am. I have to admit that that sounds like my kind of place!

Certainly I shall always treasure this hand-crafted gift, brought back across the Strait of Otranto by one immigrant for another with so much love.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


A lovely, relaxing Sunday at the sea today, with friends Marco and Giovanna who have a house at Sampieri.

As soon as I arrived, Giovanna put a dish of pineapple ice cream, which she had just made in a bimby [I want one!] into my hand. It was delicious and I think I had about five helpings at various points during the day.

The whole family were at home and that includes four lads and two grandmothers. "Insomma .... siamo qua" sighed the grandmothers when I asked how they were. If you are going to say "Insomma" ["in brief"] in this context, reader, you have to precede and follow it by long sighs to indicate that you are dealing with life's burdens as best you can and then you must say,"We're here" as resignedly as possible, rather in the way in which Welsh people say, "There we are, then". I've only ever heard these responses in Sicily.

After quite a long morning dip Giovanna and I stopped off at the house of several of Giovanna's many cousins and there we were served antipasti of focacce and various savoury pastries.

Back at Giovanna's there was pasta al pesto to start. An interesting variation was that the pesto contained some tomato and this transformed it into pesto trapanese:

Next came cotolette di pollo and polpettone which Giovanna had filled with a ham and onion mixture:

Then there was more ice cream, anguria [watermelon] and finally this gel alla cannella [cinnamon gel].

When we could move after that lot, Giovanna and I sauntered down to a little market which has sprung up near the piazza and I found a cotton dress for 15 euros. [I do hope Rosa will approve when she returns tomorrow. She inspects the workwomanship on all my clothes very carefully and makes any necessary adjustments or reinforcements.]

Later we ventured into the sea again and I was introduced to yet another hairdresser! I do find it quite incongruous to be standing in the waves in next-to-nothing whilst greeting a new acquaintance with a [wet] handshake accompanied by all the formal forms of address and pleasantries that such an occasion calls for in Italian. "Oh," said he, giving me a professional once-over: "I knew you weren't Italian because you're so fair and you've got some red in amongst the blonde". Oh, well, in my opinion a woman can never be on friendly terms with too many hairdressers!

Here are some views of Sampieri for you to enjoy:

And, as I didn't post a "sabato musicale" yesterday [ what with all the excitement of Simi's new coat] I'll leave you with this tonight:

Seba - Domenica d'estate

Saturday, August 22, 2009


By Simi the dog

Hello, folks. It's Simi here! I bet that surprised you, didn't it?! My Mummy asked me to tell you we're a day late with Auntie mountaingirl's Photo Challenge and that's because Mummy was out shopping with Auntie Marie-Laure from la belle France and Uncle David yesterday and then she cooked for them. I, of course, had them eating out of my hand [well, really I was eating out of theirs] and I got lots of attention and cuddles.

The Photo Challenge theme this week is "Sparkling" and that's lucky because something sparkling arrived in the post this week. I knew it was for me as soon as I saw the envelope:

It came all the way from Spain-land. [That's where Spaniels come from, you know.] "Hmmm, this looks interesting and it's got ribbon for me to pull", I thought:

Then I saw the card, with two adventurous, travelling doggies just like me on it. And it's got a badge that says, "Ciao, baby". Isn't that cool?

After I'd licked the card and helpfully tangled the ribbon around myself, I saw that inside the pretty paper was this elegant shoe for me to play with

and this beautiful doggy-coat!

It has sparkles on the back, where it says "Princess" [that's me!]

It has a trendy hood, too. [Oh, I know how to model!]

Don't you love the style?

It was a present from my Auntie MaryAnn in Barcelona. She comments on our blog and she asked if she could quote us in a book she is writing about Sicily. So the present is to thank me for my wise words. Auntie MaryAnn was worried that maybe the coat wouldn't fit so do you know what she did? She tried it on her son's teddy, then sent the photo to Mummy to see what she thought. After consulting me, Mummy wrote back and said she thought it would be fine and so it is! But a teddy - I ask you!

Now I can't wait for the autumn so that I can go out in my lovely, SPARKLY new coat! Thank you, Auntie MaryAnn and eat your heart out, Eva Riccobono!

Love to Auntie MaryAnn and all my fans,
Simi xx woof!


View My Stats