Canino-Pieve Family Trip: Pieve, Corsica

P1010169 The undisputed highlight of our trip has to be our visit to Corsica. We visited with our Corsican Cousins, (3rd and 4th Cousin's at this point, they are my great-grandfather's brother's descendants) in the mountain towns of Pieve and Sorio.

Around 1946, after a visit to Corsica with her father my grandmother started a correspondence with her Cousin NouNou. NouNou and Nana corresponded for over 50 years. As Nana's health declined she asked me to continue the correspondence. I have done so sporadically for the last 13 years, sending Christmas cards and a yearly note.  5885620292_f5f62d634d_b (1)

Last fall, as we began to seriously plan for this trip I sent off a emailed note (with the help of Emily a friend who is a french teacher) to Nou Nou and Janette, to see if it would be be possible to see each other and for us to visit the family home in Pieve (where Nou Nou's grand-daughter Sylivie lives with her children).  Janette let me know that NouNou had passed away since we had last corresponded, but that they would love to see us.  News of Nou Nou's passing were a disappointment but not a shock as her health had become frail in the last few years. It was sad to contemplate that we would not have a chance to visit with her again (I had a chance to meet her in 1997 on our previous trip to France) and ask her more question about family history.

Janette and Sylvie and her children were amazing. They went to great effort to host all of us. I had told them that we would be happy to rent a house or find a hotel room, but they found a way to room us all.  They opened up Nou Nou's house in Sorio (which had not been used for several years), and Slyvie's children P1010128 gave up their rooms so part of the group could stay in the house in Pieve.  The house in Pieve is the house my great-grandfather Jean had been born in, and Slyvie has done a outstanding job restoring and enhancing since she moved back to Corsica ten years ago.

P1010089 Despite Janette and Sylvie's concerns we were all very comfortable in the homes. My brother Juan Daniel, Chris, the girls and I had Nou Nou's house in Sorio to ourselves.  We arrived late at night, after stopping the Pieve house for a midnight snack. The next morning I opened the shutter to find this amazing view out of my window! =>

On our first full day Janette, and Sylvie met us at the Sorio house and led us on a short hike on of the many walking trails Corsica is known for. The views and flora were amazing. The trail led behind the village up the mountain. The terrain is wild and rugged, with ruins of shepard shelters and cisterns dotting the trail.  

After our hike we headed over to Pieve house for lunch. After sharing Corsican beer (flavored with Chestnuts) at the town bar,  Janette and Sylvie made us delicious Quiches and salads.  Every meal was beautifully laid out, and served in the traditional course style. Sylvie is invested in maintaing Coriscan traditions, so nearly everything we ate was either grown or produced in Corsica from the tomatoes in the salad and the wine on the table to the figs and cheese served for the dessert.  It was lovely touch, that deeply touched us. Not only were we eating in the family home, but were eating the fruits of the land of our ancestors.

P1010181 In the afternoon they escorted us down to St. Florent, a seaside town world famous for its beaches. The girls dug into the sand, and we took some time to enjoy the sound of the surf and feel the sun on our skin.

In many ways Corsica reminded us of Puerto Rico, the size of the island, the mountains, and beaches, but it is a much drier, more rugged environment, the mountains much taller and the roads much much narrower.  Yet we felt at home, the views filled our hearts and the small streets welcomed us.  After our beach excursion we headed back to the house and another wonderful dinner. The highlight of this dinner was local goat cheese and figs.

For the next day Janette and Sylvie had an ambitious expedition 5885042837_3ea7c637a8_b planned: Wineries and scenic roads of Cap Corse, the finger-like peninsula sticking up in Northern Corsica, where our ancestors were said to have come from before the settled in Pieve.  Chris and I while tempted by the wineries and views opted to stay home with the girls since we knew a long day on the curvy roads would lead to sick and cranky girls and ruin everyone elses fun. Instead we chose to dedicate the day to exploring Pieve and Sorio on foot.  We wandered down each alleyway, sat on the terrace of the Pieve house, walked around the churches, and made a mental map of the towns to take with us.

The day was peaceful and restful.  Our goodbye dinner was memorable as it featured a very strong Corsican fish soup that stretched most everyone's culinary palette.  The night before Janette had asked us to add an entry to Nou Nou's Casa Nuncia book. A memory book made for her by her grand-daughter Isabelle's husband in 2001. In it Nou Nou shared her memories of living in the houses in Pieve and Sorio and of her family in the days leading up to her marriage. My father asked me to write our entry. And in it we shared our family connection to the Pieve house, and the affection of our grandmothers. We thanked them for the opportunity to come and visit with them and let them know how welcomed they would be in coming to our homes in Puerto Rico, Miami, Rochester and Lansing.

The visit was too short and just long enough at the same time. Having the nine of us descended on them was surely exhausting, so leaving after 3 nights was a relief for them.  However there was so much left to see and explore in Corsica, that I think we all wish we could have stayed longer. I hope to return someday again, maybe when the kids are older and hike more of the trails. I would love to tour the island, maybe visit the cities.  Maybe next time, I will find out if there any family records in Bastia or at the central Catholic church since the churches of Pieve and Sorio are closed. 

If you have ever considered visiting Corsica, do it. The air is fresh, the land beautiful and the people fantastic.



Canino-Pieve Family Trip

Canino-Stemma Almost two years ago my father floated the idea of family trip to visit his family's ancestral homelands. He turned 60 this year and wanted to take us all to see the towns our family emigrated from. I became the family travel agent, researching hundreds of rental apartments, flight options, and car rentals.  Nine of us were coming, a ages ranging from 60 to 7. Over months of email/chat conversations we hammered out a itinerary and we contacted our Corsican family about visiting them.  A wonderful friend from Church translated a dozen emails for me as we decided on when to go, and whether it would be possible for us to visit the family home in Corsica. By March of this year we had most of the essential details set and booked, and we could just sit and wait for our departure date to arrive.  

As our departure date approached people kept asking me if I was excited and all I could muster was apprehension.  The last trip I had fully planned for my family had been a road trip from Calgary to Vancouver 5 years ago, and while it was enjoyable trip, I took personally my family's tendency to like to gripe about details.  So this time I made sure everyone had a opportunity to chime in on the planning, and I planned on letting the little gripes (which is gives my family so much joy) fly right past me.  Still as they day approached I was concerned about how much responsibility I had taken on and really hoped things didn't fall flat. Mercifully they didn't. It was a wonderful trip.  There were odd hiccups here and there, but everyone pitched in to make things work,
from conferring on trains about what to do if we needed to jump the turnstiles at our destination, or everyone speed walking to the Eiffel Tower once again so we could get a group shot, or respecting the need of others to stay behind once in a while or finding a cab driver willing to cram the 9 of us into their taxi so we could get to the train station  or being willing to make the grocery run or simply taking the hand of one my girls as we crossed busy road.  My family is still on the trip, they had a extra week, but our trip together was wonderful.

France 066 First Stop: Paris

My family is scattered, so we discarded our original plan of meeting at central airport and flying over to Paris together.  Instead we found  the best fares we could from our various airports. We flew from Rochester, to NYC to Dublin then onto Paris. It was a long trip, but our girls are awesome, and they dealt with it like the traveling pros they are.

 France 072 Our arrivals were staggered and we each found our way to the apartment of A and D, our awesome Paris hosts.  Despite the threats of a rail strike we all got there safely.  They live in the 16th Arrondissement just a quick walk from the Metro. The apartment was comfortable accommodating 9 extra people without too much extra effort and a couple of air mattresses. The Apartment has large comfortable bathrooms (a luxury on this trip we would later realize) and beautiful french doors and balconies overlooking a quiet street.

 A and D's neighborhood was wonderful, restaurants, several bakeries, cheese shops and green markets within effortless walking distance. The Eiffel Tower and the Arc of Triomphe were less than 15 minutes of shaded sidewalks away. We settled in easily with little jet lag discomfort.  

Our first outing was of course the Eiffle Tower. 5885005033_3d1270c43e_b

The girls got a huge thrill out of it. Honestly I think they could have turned around and gone home then and there.  We walk down the steps of the Torcadero and did the line to ascend to the middle section of the tower. We were treated to fantastic views and our first ice cream cones of the trip. The girls eyed souvenir Eiffel Towers and their Papi Jean haggled with the vendors till he scored them handfuls of Eiffel Tower key chains.

In Paris we ate in mostly, A is a great cook, and between her meals and the meats, cheese, bread and fruit from neighboring shops we ate really well. In Paris we also ventured to the Louvre (where the girls hunted for Egyptian artifacts, inspired by their most recent reading obsession, Rick Riordan's The 5885578970_c4c99ffb12_b Kane Chronicles), Arc de Triomphe (where Aay and I saw two scammers try the very same ring trick on a pair of tourists), Versailles (where are girls were completely captivated by audio guides and would refuse to move on till they had hear each and every entry), and the Centre Georges Pompidou, a collection of modern art museums in a striking building in Central Paris. 

Chris and I enjoyed one evening away, dinner for two at small parisian restaurant. Chris had his first Foie Gras and we loved every minute of it. We came home to find the girls enjoying their second movie of the evening and the rest of the family giggling over many bottles of wine and plates of cheese.


Paris was a fantastic time. We could have easily France 154 spent twice as long as we did there. The City was so easy to navigate, with great signage, easy to access Metro system and the weather was fantastic. It was a bit overcast when arrived and there several small downpours, but nothing that dampened our spirits and temperatures lent themselves perfectly for walking. Were it not for the ever present smokers, the city would be perfect.

Were blessed on numerous occasions by running into Spanish speaking Parisian residents, transplanted Spaniards and Dominicans who gave us advice or encouragement. And on our last day when Chris and I ventured off on our own to see the Musee du Orsay, a kind museum official had us skip the several hundred people long queue after spotting Zee falling asleep on Chris's shoulder. It really saved that outing, as it allowed us to see our favorite Impressionist painters and still make it back to the apartment in time to pack up to head off to Corsica.

It was a huge treat to visit Paris this way and I am incredibly thankful that I got to share with my family. Below you can find a slideshow of some of my pictures from the Paris leg and a link to some of my awesome Brother-in-Law Kendall pictures from the trip.


31oBAxIX5JL._SL500_AA300_Is there anything more painful than losing a treasure toy. I am sure you can recall some memory of toy left behind or broken (or just go watch Toy Story 3 if you don't have your own memories). I still remember when I lost my pink baby doll in supermarket when I was about 3, or more accurately I can recall being told all about it, how distraught I had been and how My Mom had searched the whole store looking for the doll.

I do  remember her replacement. She was almost the same but not quite. Her baby outfit was blue. And she never was the first.

Tonight a replacement stuffed kitty has just been ordered.

On our return trip from Puerto Rico, Zee's treasured kitty Snowflake was lost.  She must have slipped out of Zee's bag and we failed to notice it when we disembarked in either NY or Rochester. We didn't notice till a day later when we started repacking Zee's bag for School. Snowflake is always in her bookbag, and Zee and friend play with her on the bus ride to RCS.

The JFK JetBlue lost and found did not have her, I couldn't get an answer on the Ponce Airport's Lost and Found line.  She did not turn up in the Zee's ladybug backpack which her Papi Jean mailed to her this week (also left behind in PR, a casualty of our overly nomadic trip).  I had forgotten all about Zee's hope that Snowflake would be turn out to be in the backpack when I presented her with it at bedtime.  TEARS EPIC TEARS.

Aay's own Snowball (Snowflake's twin) had been contenting Zee on the bus these past few weeks was not a suitable permanent replacement in Zee's eyes since she still belonged to Aay and was merely on loan.

Thank goodness  she was easier to replace than the last toy Zee lost on vacation, a Buzz Lightyear light-up toy left behind on a boardwalk at Folly Beach, South Carolina, nearly 5 years ago.  That toy could only be purchased inside Walt Disney World and I had to search high and low through all of ebay to find it. Two months later when he arrived he was happily greeted but the Replacement never had the same place in Zee's life the Original had.  He has remained new Buzz.  Thankfully Snowflake maybe because she was a "collectible" and now "retired" Ty stuffed animal was very easy to find.   

Zee can sleepy easily now, already mentally preparing for the fact that New Snowflake won't be just like Old Snowflake, after all she will undoubtedly be much much whiter.

Catcher Stories

We used to live in a big house up in nearly empty subdivision up in the mountains of Caguas, called Valle Escondido (Hidden Valley) or as my cousin liked to call it Sapo Escondido (Hidden Frog) for the many frogs and toads that carpeted the road.   We left that house for another in the city, but a little lagartijo (little lizard) moved down with us...he came popping out of one of the many plants that were unloaded out of the moving truck. My mom turned that little moment into a series of stories.  She called him Catcher (catches bugs)...and along with the many tales of La Abuela Zapatona (the Big-shoed Grandma) Mami would tell us stories about Catcher.

Well I then told my girls some of those stories, and we ended up adding characters...soon Catcher met Zing a little Coqui who loved to sing. The pair then got into many many scrapes and close calls just out of sight of a pair of little girls visiting Puerto Rico. Their cats Mesha and Princesa would alternately menace and help Catcher and Zing. And Catcher and Zing have also hitched longer more unexpected Alberta, Rochester and Disney world.

So imagine my delight when I opened my Three Kings Day gift this morning:Catcher 

There is Catcher!

And he can join my Coqui and reunite Catcher and Zing:

Catcher and Zing

Taste Test

Late yesterday afternoon, Aay, Zee and I were enjoying a pre-dinner snack of Laughing Cow original swiss cheese wedges, which Arwen proclaimed to be TASTY! and finished off three wedges in quick succession. I grew up having the Laughing Cow bites, tiny foil wrapped squares that were shelf stable and a staple of my pack lunches as a child. Sadly Laughing Cow no longer offers the original version of in the bites here in the states (they were availble in Canada last year), only offering the very plasticky light version, which my girls rightly rejected.

Cheese 007Aay's evident enjoyment of the cheeses prompted her to ask if we could go and buy and taste a bunch of different cheeses. I told her we could, in fact if Daddy was game we could even make a dinner of it. So this morning after I took out my new bike for a quick ride to pick out of first delivery of fresh veggies from our CSA, Porter Farms's delivery point, less than 2 miles away, we headed out for our saturday family day. We played a round of putt-putt at Wickham Farms, we crossed the parking lot to our YMCA and went for a swim. They had a giant dragon play slide in the exercise pool, and then both girls practices many of their new swimming skills, like underwater diving and glides. After our pool time we drove down the road to the supermarket and wine store. Chris went off to replenish us and I set out with the girls to select the cheeses we wanted for our taste test. We ended up taking home 11 different kind of cheeses, Piave, Muenster, Brie, Campo de Montalban, Feta, Wensleydate with Cranberries, Fontina, Humboldt Fog, Beemster, Havarti,  and Emmenthaler Swiss. Once at home we set out several kinds of crackers, sliced meats, olives and bruschetta topping. Everyone got 11 little cards with the name of a cheese and a pen. As we tasted we were asked to jot down our impressions, and whether we judged the cheese good, okay or bad. Chris and Zee were juding on the same pace and Aay and I did them in the opposite order. 

We had a blast. The girls tried everything, even the Humboldt fog, which took some courage even to get Chris to try it. (I thought it was marvelous).Cheese 014 Cheese 015  Zee marked hers with circles (good), checks (okay) and Xs (bad). We had a ton of fun. Talking about how each flavor and texture was, what we liked or didn't like about them and then experimenting by combining the cheese and with the fruit and meats we had on the table and seeing what  combinations work. The  girls  really got into that, and we  talked about  on of the scenes in Ratatouille where Remy is trying to explain to his brother about tasting things not just gobbling it up. Great time!  For the record. Aay's favorite was Piave, Zee: the Feta, Chris: The Havarti and Me: The Humboldt Fog.


I just read a really nice email from the nice folk at makers of Humboldt Fog, who really enjoying reading about our taste test. Since it was my favorite of all the chesses we tasted I want to make sure I shared their website with you.  (July 11, 2008) Buen Provecho!

rare event

Chris and I are rarely sick at the same time. Normally we have managed to have our illness staggered, normally with me catching whatever it is as everyone else is recovering, which suits me just fine because that way I can crawl into a little ball on the bed and sleep it off without anyone trying to take care of me.  Sadly Chris and I both got sick Sunday night. It is a variation of the stomach flu that is going around. It made Zanneke sick, but for Chris and I turned into mind-splitting headaches, painful bloating and cramping, without any actually barfing. Awful. Awful  because if you don't try to move you start feeling good, especially if you have managed to sleep for a couple of hours, so you get up and try to busy, maybe doing the dishes that are piling up on the counter or putting up the fencing you bought for the garden (true, I am occasionally insane) only to find yourself doubling over in pain.

I looked like a total mess for the last two days, crawling out of the house to ferry Arwen to and from school and then back to the couch. Chris headed to work both days and managing a full day today despite the pain and discomfort. The girls were actually awesome yesterday, entertaining themselves, and contenting themselves with the height of our culinary achievement on our sick day, cereal with milk.  But today it was harder, they want their parents back. They want to get cuddled and catered to. Sigh. Still not better though, but now with tantrums!

Tomorrow has to be better, since today was already a improvement, but sheesh enough already.

Good Friday traditions

While talking to Mami this afternoon, she was really happy to hear we had Good Friday off.  She asked me if we had any traditions of watching Jesus movies or such on Good Friday. In fact the girls at that point were watching a movie featuring fathers and sons, but not the Jesus movie, rather the Empire Strikes Back. The girls were a little traumatized by the cliffhanger sad ending, but Chris promised that things would get better in the next movie and they could watch it together tomorrow.

I remember growing up in Puerto Rico the heaviness of Good Friday. Even if it was warm and sunny outside, it was sober, sobering day. We didn't watch much television, radio even on WBMJ was not encouraged. I frankly haven't gone for the deep somberness yet. Maybe when the girls get older we will do more sober things on day, but today we confined our remembrance to focusing our thankfulness to Jesus for his sacrifice when we said Grace at the meals, talking about the events of Good Friday. After Chris left to lead the Good Friday service, I led the girls in devotions. We pulled out their kids bible and turned it to the Good Friday story. We lingered over the pictures, the girls, Zanneke especially, were quite moved by Mary clinging to the cross in sorrow just below her Son's feet. After that we finally got around to resuming Arwen's special devotional (A mother and daughters bible story book, where she reads the story and we share together in discussion). The passage was from the Genesis account of Abraham's near sacrifice of Issac. While the story was structured to focus on the the amazing test to Sarah's faith it would have been to let Abraham take Isaac with him and how she would have felt hearing the story, we ended up talking about sacrifice and how the stories of God's sacrifice of his Son was connected to Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac and how God had provided the sacrifice in that instance too. Arwen immediately got that, and ended up telling me about how it was because of Christ's sacrifice that we no longer need lambs, rams or other blood sacrifices, that it was done with Jesus's blood. And she then started singing the words to the first stanza "Nothing but the Blood" (warning there is music in this link). 

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

I couldn't remember the rest of the lyrics there either, but I promised her I would find them for her so we could sing it on Easter.

So even thought our day wasn't full of somber meditation (with the Target trip to buy a Bingo game, the attempt at roller-skating, Star Wars, and egg painting), I think we still managed to get the point of Good Friday and to continue to communicate it to the girls.

By the way these are the eggs we did paint today:Eggclose
I blew the insides out, rinsed, them and then boiled them in water with vinegar before the girls used a marbling kit to layer colors on the eggs. There were originally 6 but Zanneke crushed one as she rubbed her second layer of color on. It was disappointing for her to lose one, but it made her more eager to add layer after layer of color to her remaining two. 

I have another dozen eggs ready to be decorated tomorrow. We are going to do it with another church family before sharing dinner with them. Then after Easter is all done, we will but them away till next year, when we will bring them out again, and compare how different one years eggs are from another (I probably should start writing the years on some small out of the way spot on the eggs, since this is our 3 year doing this, and I can no longer depend on simply noticing the different technique we used).Eggdisplay

Have a blessed Sabado de Gloria, rest .

Progress Report

That I have done:

  • Clean the house  (Juli from Church cleaned the kitchen, and I vacuumed the upstairs rooms, I still need to do the living room and the laundry room.)
  • Take down the wallpaper in Arwen's new room (95% done and I went ahead and bought most of the paint)
  • Take a peek under the carpet and see if there are hardwoods under there. (looks like plain old subfloor)
  • Call in a meter reading to the Water Company (took me a while to find the meter, but once I did that was simple).
  • Wait around for the Gas and Power person (He came around 1 pm, and was in the house for less than 5 minutes).

More things that need to be done:

  • Buy shelf liners for the kitchen cabinets.
  • Buy lamps for all the bedrooms, somehow I didn't notice there weren't any overhead fixtures.
  • Buy a step-ladder
  • New closet doors in Arwen's room.

Recent Photos/ and what else we have been up to.

It was another scorcher today. Above 100. At dinner time it was 97° outside and 95° in the house. It is now 91° outside and 94° upstairs. It is probably in the high eighties downstairs. But we are doing okay. It is hard for me to gather my thoughts enough to post in the evenings after being so worn down by the heat, but otherwise we are fine. We are letting the girls try to sleeping downstairs, because it is really unreasonable to expect them to sleep upstairs when it so incredibly hot. And it looks like it has worked. They fell asleep by 9:00. I just finished reading some comic books and will probably crawl into bed in a few.

I have finished reading Harry Potter 7. Chris and I were sharing the book, but yesterday I developed a 200 page lead at some point and effectively ended up monopolizing it all day today (Sorry about taking it this afternoon, love.), and finished it about an 7:00 pm, so obviously I got caught in and enjoyed it.

Grilled dinner yet again. I am really running out of ideas, I have grilled everything in the house but the cereal, but I just can justify turning on the stove in the house when it is already so hot.

Oh here are the pictures:
Dsc02599 Dsc02603 Dsc02608

And Zee is very proud of her long hair.