Archive for the ‘weather’ Category

My Fellow Americans, Happy Memorial Day!

Just a quick post to wish my fellow Americans a Happy Memorial Day as we remember our veterans and all they’ve sacrificed for us.

And now it’s time for me to step away from the computer for a bit as I regroup, take some photos, scratch some goatie faces, walk with the pooches, hang out in the campagna, and get psyched up for a busy summer ahead. Woohoo!

What do you have planned for the summer?

Heating a House in Italy: Meet Our New Stufa

Lest anyone try to convince you that Calabria has a tropical climate, let me assure you–it’s gets *cold* here in the winter, especially the further you go up into the mountains (duh). And I know Cherrye is with me on this.

Seriously, I’ve seen people on message boards claim the temps never fall into the 40s. Please. We have *skiing* here for goodness’ sake!

The temps may not always be low like what I was getting used to in Pennsylvania, but there’s usually a good bit of humidity in the air and once that enters these old stone walls, tile floors, and *your bones*, well, you get the point, right?

Central heating here is rare, and indeed, quite expensive as electricity costs are outrageous. People turn to various solutions for heat: gas stoves, pellet stoves, old-fashioned fireplaces, and my favorite, the wood-burning stove.

This is our first winter in this house, which used to have an old fireplace that did precisely nothing for heating the place (P grew up in the house); it was one of the first things we gutted, in fact. So we’ve been making do with small electric space heaters only when we *absolutely* needed them. Still, I’m not looking forward to my next electric bill.

Even then, wearing several layers of clothes inside the house was normal, and in fact, necessary. I know this may seem strange to those of you who walk around in t-shirts in your house when it’s 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside, but trust me, that isn’t a common scene in Italy even *with* heat.

But then, just this past week, we joined the ranks of the “heated.” P had scouted out wood stoves while I was in America, and neither of us were thrilled with the selection or prices. So when I got back, I took to the Internet. We found something perfect, for a good price (including delivery), and it arrived within a week! I know!

P and his friend left the village in the morning to get the pipes and everything to go with it and had it installed within an hour.

Meet Sammy Stufa and her new best friend, Stella:

I seriously couldn’t love this thing more.

Not only does it heat up the entire top floor of the house, I can even melt my Nutella on top of it so it’s spreadable again! At some point, we’ll put ducts through the house to *really* circulate heat through the place, but as they say in Italy, pian piano….”

(Hey, don’t forget World Nutella Day is coming up!)

Buon weekend! Stay warm!

My Top 10 Realizations After Being “Home” for the First Time in Nearly Six Years

In my post An American Expat in Italy Goes “Home,” I mentioned that I’d be posting a list of observations, so without further ado, here it is with some photos of “home,” the Anthracite Coal Region in Pennsylvania, thrown in for good measure:

My Top 10 Realizations After Being “Home” for the First Time in Nearly Six Years

10. I don’t like what clothes dryers do to my clothes. They’re *great* for towels and such, but actual clothes? No thanks.

9. It’s really hard to find healthy meal choices in U.S. restaurants that aren’t salads (which, if you don’t watch, can be more fat- and calorie-laden than, say, the steak).

8. Starbucks coffee is OK. I don’t love it, and I don’t hate it, but I definitely don’t think it’s worth the price.

7. Kids grow. FAST. And tall.

6. Having friends that you can see after five or ten years and pick up a conversation like you’ve never left off? Yeah, that’s awesome.

5. Christmas really isn’t the same without my grandparents.

4. I’d get way less work done in the mornings if I could just flip on talk shows. Man they’re addictive. Especially Ellen.

3. People eat out and/or order in a lot more than what I’m used to, which is next to never…and also most food in restaurants tasted *uber* salty to me.

2. On a related note, I really need to learn to make Chinese food.

And the number one realization after being “home” for the first time in nearly six years:

1. I wish my two homes were physically *much* closer together.

Expats, what do you notice after being away from “home” for a while?

Holy Mackerel! Look at Those Altocumulus Clouds!

Yesterday while walking the dogs, I looked up and saw this:

Mackerel clouds on Flickr

My mom’s friend Kitty (she of the unique tea strainer and adorable heart bracelet) once told my mom these were “mackerel clouds” because they resembled the fish’s scales. Of course we both thought this was an old wives’ tales, and maybe it is, but it also made Wikipedia, so there.

They’re actually called “altocumulus” clouds (thus the title of the post), just in case you didn’t remember from elementary school science class.

So I smiled as I photographed the sky, thinking it was rather fitting that these clouds would be over me this week. Kitty’s 87th birthday would have been on Saturday the 17th–a day before mine–but she passed away two years ago.

The mackerel clouds, however, will always live on–and always make me think of our Kitty.

Had you ever heard of mackerel clouds?

Do you have strange things that remind you someone special?

Mudslides in Messina: Thanks for Not Getting in the Way Berlusconi!

Messina mudslides*UPDATED BELOW*

We’ve had a lot of nasty weather lately and even had damage in Calabria, but nothing even close to the mudslides in Messina, just across the Strait. The death toll is expected to reach at least 50 and the number of homeless 400, making these mudslides the worst in Italy since 150 people were killed in mudslides in Naples in 1998.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has reportedly called off a visit to the area so he doesn’t get in the way of rescue efforts. How considerate! What a nice vaffanc…erm…thank you to the South who continually puts this man back in office.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano did tour the affected area, however, and had this to say:

There is a situation of widespread hydro-geological instability and that’s mainly because of unauthorised buildings in the Messina area, and many others in Italy. A serious plan is needed, rather than massive prestige projects, to invest in the safety of these zones, or other disasters will happen.

Nice to see someone in power at least looking toward the future and how to prevent something like this from happening again, although in Berlusconi’s defense, perhaps he has more important things to do like try to break up “Cloonalis” and wrestle showgirl Elisabetta Canalis away from George Clooney or something.

What, you think I’m being too harsh? Check out these 19 Unbelievable Berlusconi Quotes and get back to me.

Anyway, you may remember I visited and loved Messina, and also that P has a sister living there (she and her family are fine). As far as I know, there is no government or other organized special effort to help the victims in Messina, but if you know of something please let me know, and I’ll post it here.

In the meantime, the Comune of Messina has established a bank account accepting donations:

  • C.C. IBAN IT 91Y0102016598000300034781; C.C.P. N. 1406398

Payments can be made to “Comune di Messina – Servizio Tesoreria” specifying “pro-alluvionati” in the memo section.

And of course you can always donate to the Italian Red Cross.

Siamo con voi, Messina!

*UPDATE: Apparently Berlusconi changed his mind and showed up in Messina today to promise affected residents they would be exempt from taxes and added: “Reconstruction is too expensive and cannot be assured, so we will do like in L’Aquila: new homes in other areas, but still within the urban fabric.”

Nice thought, if only this actually was being done in L’Aquila….

And while I’m picking on Berlu, did you know the law that granted him immunity from criminal prosecution while he was in office (that, of course, he pushed through) is up for review by Italy’s Constitutional Court this week? Pins and needles here!

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake