Archive for the ‘ Funanigans ’ Category

Pick olives in Italy – Fragneto Monforte, Compania

Would you rather pick olives in America or Italy? After weighing the options, I vouched for Italy and found myself in Fragneto Monforte, a small little village (paesce) with family friends, Tina and Michael. I thought all I would do was come pick olives and study my Hebrew textbook, but my two weeks here were better than I ever imagined, and didn’t get to as much of the Hebrew as I had hoped.

After 24 hours of travel from California to Chicago to Munich-Germany to Naples and then a long drive to Fragneto Monforte, I got up the next day, watched Tina (the Chinese-Italian Mama) make an amazing seafood pasta, and went olive picking on the nearby farm. There I met the Venditti family, a fun-loving warm-hearted bunch who embraced me with their big smiles and jovial laughter, and so the adventures began.

Over the course of 12 sunny days, when I wasn’t learning to make Italian cuisine, I joined them almost every day and helped pick olives (cogliere olive). It was hard work, but being out in the brisk mountain air, it was a refreshing experience and I picked olives to my heart’s content. Every day they asked me if I was tired. With the biggest smile, I would always reply, “Nope, not tired! That was fun! See you tomorrow!”

Pretty quickly, I learned lots of Italian words and it all started with my first lesson from Maria “Non lo so. Non ho capito. Ripeti, per favore.” (I don’t know. I don’t understand. Repeat, please.) Every day I learned new phrases and could converse simply by the end of 2 weeks.

But this is what it’s like to pick olives in Fragneto Monforte, Italy. An amazing and unforgettable experience!! I hope I can return some other October and learn how to make wine with the grape harvest. Civediaaaaaaaamooooooo….

Only one way to get to the farm.

Almost at the farm where "work" can begin.

Santino and Giovanni - the dynamic duo.

Black olives, silvery leaves.

Nicola works in the treetops.

So many olives!!

What's a farm without a dog? Diana was really our supervisor.

I picked a whole crate of olives (ok, Maria helped). :)

Santino sends down the treetops and we continue to pick.

I finally graduated from ground floor and got to use the ladder.

Everyone has an olive to pick.

Every so often, it's ok to chill.

Fold the tarp and let's go home.

After the day's harvest, sometimes you find a few lost olives around the far edges of the tarps.

Every day's reward after picking olives. Ci vediamo domani...

After ~30 crates, you spend a day to remove the branches and leaves.

After olives are cleaned they can be sent to the press.

The old farmhouse - storage for olives before they go to the press.

Picking olives is always more fun with friends.

Leaving the farm...until next time.

DIY: Paint Projects

When I’m not traveling, I like to paint and find it most therapeutic. I love how in the moments when paint and canvas meet, all the craziness of life seems to fade away, my being finds calm, my thoughts are silenced and then it’s just me and the paint. Perhaps in sum, I’ve had maybe one year of art training in the 4th grade and am no expert by any means, but I like to think it doesn’t matter how much formal training you’ve had. Art is a wonderful outlet for the soul and there’s an artist within every person.

An exploration into acryclic paints with wedge sponges.

But most recently, I was apprenticed in the commercial painting trade and had the opportunity to hang out on rooftops and felt kind of like Tom Sawyer, except instead of whitewashing and conning people to paint, I got to play with spray paints and thick flat paint and enjoyed every minute of it. And if I could do this, I think anyone could do it. Here are two DIY paint projects.

DIY Project 1: Poop-covered, rusty vent hood.

After steps 1 - 3.

Step 1: Brush off all the dirt and poop, lightly sand down every surface, brush off the sanded paint. Be sure to wear a dust mask.

Step 2: Spray all the rusty parts with rust-oleum. Wear a mask.

Step 3: Spray over the rust-oleam with a white primer if painting with a light color or else the brown rust-oleam color will show through the light paint. Wear a mask.

Step 4: Roll/brush on two coats of paint.

Project 1 complete.

DIY Project 2: Prevent wooden boards from splitting. (The backing to a decorative part of the building.) 

Project 2: Before

Ready to scrape away.

Step 1: Scrape of all the old paint with a wire brush. Wear a dust mask and protective eyewear. You don’t want to breathe in paint chips or get a chip lodged in your eye, or else it’s a trip to the ER.

Step 2: Sweep off all the dust. Wear a mask.

Cut in at edges with a brush and roll everything else.

Step 3: Paint the edges with a brush and roll as much as you can of the rest. Load up the roller real good and squish in the paint into ever nook and cranny in the wood.

Hard at work in the mid-day heat. Not an easy job.

Step 4: Apply a second coat.

Project 2: After

Step 5: Do it all over again for the next building over. Even if you get stung by paper wasps that made their home behind the wooden boards. (I guess they didn’t like me trying to beautify their home. At least I found out I’m not allergic to wasp stings but it sure hurt and swelled up.)

Lessons Learned:

  • Stretch every day or you are going to be hurting after all that crouching.
  • The most important part to any paint job is in the preparation of surfaces to be painted. It’s not the fun part though and takes the most time.
  • Rooftops are another one of my favorite places to hang out.

What is kosher in Israel?

Practically anything and everything you’d want or need is kosher in Israel. Today we learned in Hebrew class that even the postcard stamps in Israel are kosher. In Israel (and only in Israel) they use kosher glue on the back of their stamps just in case you use your spit to place the stamps on your mail. That is definitely a detail I would have never even considered! Sbaba! (hebrew slang definition: cool!)

Moving to a new place – what Frommer’s and Lonely Planet doesn’t tell you.

With every move to a new country, state, city, or wherever, it takes time to make the transition, but so far, coming to Israel from America has not been too difficult of an adjustment. Nevertheless, it does take some getting used to…and successful and smooth transitions are perhaps determined most by how QUICKLY you adapt; you have to do your best to stop thinking about where you came from and enjoy where you are.

Actually, post-undergraduate years, the longest I’ve lived in any one place has been the last 3 years I spent in Irvine, CA before coming to Israel. Apart from that, I have been on the move almost every year or two years for well, probably the past decade (sometimes I can’t believe I can count in decades!).

There really needs to be a guide book about moving to a new country. I haven’t found any, and Frommer’s or Lonely Planet only tell you about how to be a tourist and not so much a resident. Maybe it’s a rite of passage to experience a lot of stress in moving to a new place, but I say, why not minimize the stress of that by preparing yourself for the transition so you can actually enjoy it and that way, the transition is not as scary or shocking to the system.

From my experience, here are some tips to ease out of and into any new situation, be it the next city over or to the other side of the world. Feel free to take or leave any of it, or leave me your experiences and tips in a comment, but here’s what I’ve learned about moving to a new place:

My life for 6 months and 3 seasons in 2 suitcases and a backpack. On the way to Israel with a pitstop in London.

1. Bring basic necessities to sustain you for at least 2 weeks. (This cuts out the stress of being a royal mess and not being able to take a comfortable shower after schleping around suitcases, boxes, etc. into cars and up stairs, down halls, and every other possible maze to get yourself and your stuff to the new place. You feel much happier if you can clean yourself up after a long day of moving. If you have the ability to pack a roll of toilet paper, do that too. Pick up a travel pack of antibacterial wipes from the local Target and give your new place a once-over before unpacking everything else. Bottom line is, the more basics you can pack that doesn’t exceed weight/size restrictions/limitations, try and bring as much as you can with you and pack those last to make sure they’re easily accessible as they’re the first things you can use when you get to your destination to start setting yourself up for your new life.)

2. Take a stroll around the neighborhood and find the closest markets, banks, etc. (I suppose you can always give yourself a GoogleMaps tour, but if you don’t have that luxury, it’s time to use your feet (or bike, car, etc. if available) and get your bearings about you.)

3. Survey what’s in the local markets for your easily consumable foods and life staples – water, bread, yogurt, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. (In Israel, I couldn’t read any signs and have no idea why it says 1.5% or 3% on the yogurt labels, but just throw your “must have nonfat or 2% or only greek yogurt” thoughts out the window and just be happy you identified which items in the dairy section are yogurt. If you made a mistake and bought cream cheese, cottage cheese, or sour cream before you found the yogurt, it’s ok…just laugh a little and know that the 50 shekel investment was all part of the learning).

4. Take a break from feeling like you have to understand everything and stressing about the transition. Absorb the culture for a few days, eat out at the local restaurants with some new friends you may have met, then reevaluate what you need as far as necessities and then enjoy the adventure of finding that one pot or pan you need to cook some real food in and one good knife and cutting board. As much as you might not want to spend your money on kitchenware, you have to figure out for yourself how to do this so you don’t break the bank by eating out all the time (unless you’re one of those special people who happen to have untold wealth hidden away…but that’s not so much my reality). So, remember to budget for the higher costs of eating out a lot within the first week or so and don’t stress about having to do that and give yourself a huge pat on the back on the first day you’re able to make yourself a home-cooked meal, even if it’s your own assemblage of pita, hummus, cucumber/tomato salad, and later, adding pasta and meat to the menu).

Now that’s not to say that this American gals’ move to Israel hasn’t been without its adventures and that I haven’t gone through some culture shock…but I’ll have to save that for future blogs on the moving series. Stay tuned. :)


There are pigs in Israel.

In response to my last post, I am happy to report that I found some pigs in Israel. They came from London…and somehow border control didn’t catch them.

I totally forgot about these tasty gummies that can only be found at Marks & Spencer in the London. But for Percy Pig, it’s not just about a cute little pig trademark logo. It’s all about the pork and for those who can’t handle the pork, they feature a kosher “veggie” version where the gelling agent consists of pectin versus pork gelatine.

Having somewhat of a gummy fetish and being a huge fan of Haribo and all things gummy, I never really thought about where gelatine comes from. Haribo never labelled their ingredients so specifically and starts off with corn syrup, sugar, gelatine…. Percy Pig’s ingredients are sugar, glucose syrup, sugar, pork gelatine…. For some reason, reading “pork gelatine” in the ingredients makes my tummy feel a little funny and now I’m more inclined to eat the kosher version. Perhaps deep down I have some Jewish blood in me after all and I’m reminded why ignorance is bliss. (At least my dentist will be happy to hear that I may end up cutting down on the gummy intake after all this.)

Upon further investigation, it turns out Percy Pig has his roots in Germany. Now that makes you wonder if it’s really about the pig or if there’s more to this story…maybe I’ll head to the pig-farming kibbutz in Israel and do some further investigations.

Percy Pig

Chips vs. Crisps

Hands down, the UK has the best selection of chips (or crisps) as they call them here. (“Chips” in the UK = fries in the US. Hence if you order the classic “fish and chips” it’s not going to come with a side of Lay’s or Fritos.) Sure you can argue its all about the same potato and the same kind of crunch but these chips are amazing!

Once upon a time, I came to the UK to hang with amydoug while they were in Oxford…Amy worked and Dougin worked on his scripts of sorts. We had our own advenutures back then visiting Wales and Llandudno…but since then we made it a point to try every Walker’s crisp flavour we came across.

Perhaps a decade later the tradition will continue…but lets just hope the metabolism is even better at this point…about a decade later. :) Time will tell. But it was sure nice to munch on during a wet intermittently thunderstormy summer stroll along the Thames river in the small suburbia type town of Kingston upon Thames with the Sacewicz’. Besides, it’s practically “law” that it’s impossible to gain weight while you’re travelling so you are allowed to eat anything and everything. At least in all my travels over many moons, I’ve eaten to my heart and gut’s content and I’ve stayed pretty much the same size since I was in high school!

Today, I found two at the local Sainsbury’s:
1. Thai Sweet Chilli
2. Caramelised Onion & Balsamic Vinegar

Have you found other interesting flavours? If so, please let me know via a comment below so I can keep an eye out for it!









What is the NATO phonetic alphabet?

With all the advances in technology these days, you can do most everything online without ever having to bother with interacting with people (i.e. depositing checks, buying airplane tickets, shopping for shoes on Zappos to baby gifts on Amazon…and everything else). Have we completely lost the art of social interaction?

I will leave that to debate for another day….

But every so often when technology fails you and you just need help to get the online accounts sorted out or there’s some discrepancies needing human customer service, you’re relegated to verifying all manner of your existence, often over some poor phone connection or just being plain deaf. (Hey, whoever came up with closed captioning for the hearing impaired was a genius.) …and sometimes the customer service agent gets annoyed with your for not enuncuating or sometimes you have to play a 3-round repetition game (i.e. your email address) to get through the call.

In such cases have you ever resorted to some sort of word game to make sure the other party hears you right? My name is P as in pearl, E as in egg, G as in good, G as in good, and Y as in yes. And sometimes the person who’s trying to help you ends up correcting you in your letter to word association. Hrmph! Well not all of us are trained in the NATO phonetic alphabet. Seriously, how many of us even knew that this language existed? I mean pig latin…yes…but shouldn’t NATO be left to politics and world affairs?

For all those who find yourself in this kind of situation, perhaps you might want to join me and brush up on your NATO alphabet skills. :)


Chicken on my mind!

$0.99/lb for chicken! Now that is a steal when you want to cook for 30 voracious college students.  But when I got to the store, I realized that was for split chicken breast with the bone in. Being ambitious, I thought I could make something out of 15 lbs. of chicken, but once I got the chicken home, I thought, “who was I kidding? The bone-in makes it hard to work with…next time I’m going to pay $1.97/lb. for the boneless/skinless chicken breasts!”. In the end, my housemate and I decided to go with 3 chicken pot pies (from Costco), rice, and broccoli to feed 30 college students – all you have to do is throw the pies in the oven, throw the rice and water in a cooker, and dunk the broccoli into boiling salted water until they turn bright green, strain it, and salt and pepper it. Much easier than cooking chicken. But since I already bought the chicken, I still had to figure out what to do with it.

Needless to say, it was a long day of cooking still in the end! So, I experimented with baking chicken resulting in honey baked chicken and poaching chicken so I could save the chicken for a future chicken enchilada meal. Results were not too shabby I must say. Moist baked chicken and resilient/juicy poached chicken. In the poached chicken experiment process, I also discovered the anatomy of raw chicken breasts and figured out how to carve out chicken breasts and chicken tenderloins off the bone…but after all that, I think I’m done playing with slimy chicken for a good few months. Friends, please remind me never to buy that much chicken at one go ever again. :)

A needle in a haystack.

To the Costco guy I exclaimed with big big smile, “Send out an ABP. I lost my keys. They were clipped to a cart, we don’t know where that cart is!” So I lost my keys at Costco today. Stupid me, yes, but how did that happen you wonder? Well, I clipped them to the cart seat since I didn’t have any pockets on my work outfit (pencil skirts don’t come with pockets!), didn’t want to lug my entire work bag into Costco..had my phone and wallet in hand. Went all around Costco with Cchu only to find a kilo of Fage yogurt worthy of purchase today, checked out at the register, grabbed yogurt, left cart behind and thought now to hand carry yogurt, phone and wallet, met Cchu at food court for hot dog and sundae, finished eating, got up to leave and realized my keys were still attached to that cart, went back to where cart would have been at the register, saw no cart with keys hanging off of it…aiyayaya. So Cchu positioned herself at the exit being a creeper holding her kilo of Fage yogurt staring everyone down that passed by (really just looking at the carts for keys), I walked the larger half of the Costco parking lot, up and down every aisle looking for a cart with the keys attached to it and saw nothing, and exclaimed to myself “how many carts does Costco have! They have 100s of carts! This is impossible), went back inside and started walking the Costco floor, went from the registers down the main way, looking intently at every cart I passed by, passed the clothing area, got to the freezer section, quietly sighed while maintaining a smile, “oh Lord, where are these keys”, passed the fruit and produce section, rounded the meat corner, walked by the bakery corner and…AHA!!! there was the lone cart with keys hanging off it, no one around the cart, still nothing in the cart, hanging out by its lonesome in the furthest corner from the register with the baked goods. Go figure!! :) But it was another fun adventure in the lives of CC and PC.

Please pass the bread…

My housemate made calzones for dinner but her first attempt left a lump of dough that just didn’t seem to be the right consistency. Rather than chucking the sticky dough, I attempted to turn it into Fruit Bread. Somewhat going by a random recipe I found in my book, I took a stab at playing with the dough blob and after a lot more flour, raisins, dried cranberries, fresh squeezed OJ, an egg, butter, a lot more flour, some milk, sugar, a lot of heat and a lot of time, voila! I made bread for the first time!!! It’s nice and light…and the perfect sweetness…who needs 85C when you can bake your own “FRESH BREAD!”

It worked!! Phew...