Friday, 28 February 2014

A Declaration of War Against Multi-Tasking

The most unexpected part of being a grown-up is, I regret to say, that multi-tasking is just not what it's cracked up to be. In fact, the pursuit of multi-tasking has become the very bane of my existence.

                                                                    image source

Prior to being a grown-up, I actually looked forward to becoming a multi-tasker of epic proportions. I looked on with admiration when I saw mothers in the supermarket ferrying around four or five children with apparent ease and selecting wholesome foods to put into their trolley while simultaneously making mega business deals on their mobile phone.

Yes, back when I lived in pre-child blissful naivety, I aspired to be the quintessential task-juggling Supermum. Over the last 12 months, being the mother of baby who is as clingy as a koala bear has meant that doing anything at all has been nigh on impossible, but to my credit, I would like to point out that I have accumulated some rather spectacular achievements in multi-tasking to add to my CV. These include, but are not limited to, holding a baby in my arm while performing the following things with the other:
  • hanging out and taking in entire loads of washing;
  • going through the self-service checkout at the supermarket with about 700 items in my trolley;
  • typing a blog post;
  • making Spaghetti Bolognese, and
  • applying my daily dose of mascara 
Regrettably, nobody warned me of the truth about multi-tasking. The truth is that it does not save you time at all. On the contrary. In truth, my endeavours to multi-task have actually resulted in:
  • spending about 9 times as long at the washing line on a weekly basis than an average person;
  • causing the queue for the self-service checkout to back up about 100 metres across the supermarket floor while an angry mob of customers with only a handful of items each wait for me to finish and get out of their way;
  • unleashing a plethora of typos (if anyone knows a collective noun for typos, please let me know) on this blog. Luckily, these are usually picked up within a day or two by my sister. She's convinced that I put them in on purpose to make sure she's reading my blog.
  • running around frantically searching for a band-aid after slicing, dicing or grating my finger for the umpteenth time, and
  • poking myself in the eye with the mascara wand on a regular basis (if you have never done this before, not only is it painful, it is also very messy and takes about three quarters of an hour to get your face back to it's pre-mascara-stained state). Oh, and if you know me IRL and have ever wondered why I often go around sporting one blood-shot eye, you now know why.
Just in case I have not yet convinced you that multi-tasking is evil and should be avoided at all costs, allow me to share with you a little incident that occurred in my laundry just last week ...

My baby had finally gone down for a nap and I decided to have a blitz on the housework while I had the chance. I filled up the washing machine and quickly got a load of washing on. There were some delicate items to do too which could be done later in the machine, but to save time, I decided to put them in to soak while the other clothes were in the machine so I could hang them all out together. So I ran some water into the trough next to the washing machine and did just that. Then off I went to tackle the mess in the kitchen.

Sometime later, I heard Ben (Mr Nine) call out from the laundry:

"Mum! You need to come here right now!" (he has a habit of doing that and it's become a bit of a case of The Boy Who Cried Wolf).

"Don't yell in the house!" I hissed back.

"No, seriously mum, you need to come!" he shrieked out again, "There's a flood in the laundry!"

I was just about to send him to his room for the rest of the week for yelling while the baby was asleep, when I suddenly remembered that I had indeed put a plug in the laundry trough next to the washing machine and filled the trough with water and that the pipe leading out from the washing machine deposits vasts quantities of water into said trough during its cycle.

Oh yes, there was a flood in the laundry alright, and although my son might not yet know how to wash clothes, I can rest assured that at least I have provided him with an unforgettable lesson in how not to wash them. 

So just in case, like my son, you are not yet a grown-up yourself, please take note: multi-tasking will inevitably turn out to be unexpectedly, and undeniably, overrated.

Janine's Confessions of A Mommyaholic

(This was a Finish the Sentence Friday post).

How 'bout you? Have you ever flooded the laundry? Ever poked yourself in the eye with a mascara wand? And which side of the fence do you sit on when it comes to multi-tasking?

I'd love to write more, but my baby has just woken up and the washing machine's just finished. I have to go and hang out some clothes now with one hand ...

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Alphabet Weekends - D

It's Alphabet Weekend time here again on the blog (my challenge to organise 26 family activities in the 52 weeks of 2014, each activity starting with a consecutive letter of the alphabet) and this fortnight it's brought to you by the letter:

I had a bit of difficulty deciding what we would do for 'D'. A friend suggested Drunkenness and Debauchery, but that's not quite what I had in mind. Dribbling, Drifting, Dawdling, Demoralizing, Dissociating, Dissolving, Dissecting and Disappearing would all have been more or less viable options, but I'm not sure they would have been much fun. Dog walking would have been do-able, but there was the small problem of not having a dog.

In the end, we decided to take up the suggestion given to me by Rita from The Crafty Expat, and go with drawing.

This was actually quite challenging, since no-one in our family actually draws on a regular basis if we can avoid it. To give the activity some structure, we invented two drawing games.

Game number one: the players had to select one card from each of these two piles (which were facing down during the game) and make sure no-one saw their cards.

Then each player had to draw something that began with the letter they had chosen that also fitted into their selected category and the other players had to guess what the drawing was.

We played this on the blackboard at my parents' house, where we were visiting, and were lucky to have the kid's grandparents and my niece participate as well.

It was loads of fun, the highlight definitely being laughing at my dad's drawings. I actually think this is the first time I've ever seen him draw!

Game number two: we put the names of several animals into two separate piles. One pile was called 'heads' and the other 'bodies'. Then we each selected a card from both piles (without showing our cards to anyone else) and had to draw a creature with the body of the animal we selected from the first pile and the head of the one we selected from the second.

Then we had fun trying to guess what each other had drawn and coming up with names for our creatures, like 'Snog' (half snake, half dog ); 'Lorse' (half lion, half horse) and 'Micken' (half mouse, half chicken). It reminded me of the time we made up a song about ligers and tigons and zonkeys and zorses.

This fortnight's Alphabet Weekend cost us no money at all and helped us realise that drawing can be really enjoyable even when you have no talent for it whatsoever!

I also had a warm and fuzzy mummy moment at the end of the afternoon. I went back into the garage later to look for something and found a little picture had been left for me on the blackboard ...

My Little Drummer BoysTwinkle In The Eye

Do you know any other drawing games?

Can you guess what our drawings are supposed to be??

And do you have any suggestion for what we can do next fortnight for the letter E? So far, all I've come up with is Eating and Eavesdropping!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Alphabet Weekends - C

I meant to post these photos last Wednesday, but as I wrote in my last post, things have been on pause here on the blog lately due to some messy things going on in real life at the moment.

I really do want to keep up The Alphabet Weekends project though (my goal to go on 26 family outings throughout 2014, each one starting with a different letter of the alphabet, starting with the letter A and moving alphabetically right through to Z) because I think it brings a lot of positivity into our lives and gives us something to plan and to look forward to.

I received some fantastic suggestions from other bloggers when I posted Our 'B' activities about what we could do for the letter C and I think a shout-out is definitely in order for Emily over at Have a Laugh on Me for her collosal contribution, which included:

"Cuddling, Cooking, Crafting, Compassing, Cruising, Clapping, Collaborating, Cracking, Canoeing, Cranky"

(Thank you, Em!)

However, after much deliberation, we decided to take advantage of the natural splendours surrounding our home in the south west of Western Australia and decided to go Caving ...

We chose to go to Jewel Cave, the biggest show cave in the south-west. It was discovered in 1957 and is widely acclaimed as the most beautiful show cave in the region (an estimated 350 caves exist in the region, but only a handful are open to the public). 

Please note: my son doesn't actually look like this. I did ask him to smile nicely. Charming child.

They nickname the feature below The Karri Forest due to its likeness to the Karri trees that adorn the south-west of the state.

Here you can see massive twisted tree roots that have have embedded themselves into the cave ...

We were also treated to a 'light' show ...

And here's the silliest shot of the day: we were posing for a nice mum and bub photo but bub pulled on my earring at the last second :)

My Little Drummer BoysTwinkle In The Eye

So have you ever been inside a cave?

And do you have any suggestions for what we can do for our 'D' weekend?? 

Monday, 10 February 2014

Blog on pause

I know I promised an Italian lesson on the blog today but due to sudden changes in personal circumstances, that post, and this blog, are currently on pause.

Hoping to be back on board soon.

Love Lizzy.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Everybody is a Genius

Yesterday, my son Ben headed off to school for his first day of Year Four with a bag full of brand new books and stationery, butterflies in his tummy and a smile that spread from the far corner of one cheek to the other. As we got in the car he told me: "I'm the most excited person in the world right now".

As I was driving home from dropping him off at his new classroom and meeting his new teacher, I realised that not only was it his first day of upper primary school, but it was also the six year anniversary of the very first time I stood in front of a classroom of high school students and taught a lesson all by myself. 

It doesn't feel like six years ago; it feels more like twenty. So many changes have happened in that time. The little three-year-old boy I had in those days is now nine. The daughter I didn't even dare to dream of back then is now sleeping in the room next to me. She'll have her first birthday in less than five weeks from now. In the last six years, Ben and I have lived in seven different houses on two different continents, he's been to six different schools, I've had eleven different jobs, not all of them in teaching. Six years ago, I'd never met my partner; never even imagined that I'd ever meet anyone like him. 

But these are the tangible changes in our lives. It's the intangible ones that make those six years feel like a lifetime ago.

Six years ago, I thought I knew how to be a good teacher, because I had report cards that told me I was an good student teacher. Six years ago, I had a vision of becoming  an inspirational educator, the kind that turns kids' lives around. I dreamt of being able to light the fire inside of each them. I aspired to have the kind of impact on their lives that Robin Williams' character has in Dead Poet's Society

I imagined being able to awaken students who had never read an entire novel before on their own to the joys of literature. I truly believed that I could inspire teenagers who claimed they hated to write to discover a means of expressing their teenage angst through the written word. I was going to teach them to see the world from an angle they'd never even knew existed before. My passion for learning was going to be infectious. I was going to change the world.

It didn't take long for the idealism of the naive teacher that I was back then to take a tremendous plunge. I did love my job and although I dived into it with such energy that I exhausted myself virtually to the point of insanity within less than a year, I had many wonderful moments in the classroom. But there was one class of young men (it was an all boys' school) who, although I tried in every way I could, I just could not connect with. 

The class comprised of twenty-four boys in their second last year of school. They were sixteen years old and were studying a pathway of English that would not grant them entrance to university. If they passed the course, it would help them gain entry into a technical college or an apprenticeship. From the very first to the very last lesson of that year, they gave me a hard time. They did not like a young, female teacher trying to make them concentrate on a subject that they detested. For the most part, most of them disliked my teaching methods, no matter how creative I tried to be. Activities, games and behaviour management strategies that worked well with my other four classes fell flat at best with these boys and, at worst, failed miserably.

Regardless of the approach I took, their motivation to learn and to improve ranged from minimal to non-existent. This frustrated me enormously, as did their literacy levels in general, which were appalling low for their age.

One weekend, I was having a cup of tea with my mum after having just dragged myself through the mentally exhausting process of marking a class set of one of their assignments. I started to vent to her about the attitude of these boys and their inability to construct basic sentences, despite most of them having been educated in the private school system for over a decade. Where was the root of this problem? I ranted away to her. Was it an issue with the school system? Had they been promoted from one year level to the next year after year when they should really have been made to repeat one of the early grades and as a result they were never able to catch up? Or did these problems originate at home? Did their parents fail to encourage reading, place little importance on homework and were they responsible for their children's inability to concentrate because they had allowed them to play thousands of hours of computer games?

Nothing could have prepared me for the response my mum gave me. I was ranting to her because I was convinced she would agree with me that the level of literacy of these boys and their disinterest in improving it was a travesty. You see, when I was growing up, books were currency in our house. We didn't even have a TV. Although I wasn't an avid reader myself until I left school, my mum read aloud to me every night for the first eight years of my life. When it came to grammar, my mum was a tyrant. If I came home from school and said something like: "Mum, Rodney done something bad to me today", her first response would be: "Rodney did something bad to you today", and if I continued with: "yeah, but he hurt me really bad!", she'd respond with: "No, he hurt you really badly". So what she said that day in answer to my rant was the very last thing I was expecting her to say.

"Don't be too quick to judge those boys, Elizabeth', she said, "They might not be any good at reading and writing, but every one of them can do something that you can't do. Some of them can make amazing things out of wood, some of them can fix cars, some of them can kick a football the whole way across an oval. Everybody's got things that they're good at and not good at and reading and writing just isn't what these boys shine at. That doesn't make them dumb".

Of all the teaching advice I've ever heard in lecture theatres or read in text books or discussed at Professional Development days, that one conversation is the one thing that had the most influence in the evolution of my attitude towards teaching. Maybe my mum should have told me that's how she thought a long time before that. Or maybe she was waiting till exactly the right time and told me when I needed to hear it most.

I started to focus less on changing my students' attitudes and started to focus more on being interested in what was important to them. Many of them played basketball, so I went along to some of their matches. In the classroom, I started preaching less and listening more. At the end of the school year,  I organised the class into teams, took them to the cooking rooms and had a bake-off. They had so much fun they didn't even realise that there was any reading involved. They even fought over which person in each group would read the instructions aloud. The mess they made in the cooking room took me more than two hours to clean that afternoon after school, but I didn't mind, becuase as the bell sounded that day to signify that this was the very last time I would ever have to teach that class, a group of them had come over and said: "Miss, will you be teaching us again next year?" and I could tell from the tone of their voices, that they hoped that I would.

In some ways, I wish I could go back six years to that first day of teaching as I was standing in front of the class, palms sweating, heart beating a thousand miles a minute, and whisper in that young teacher's ear to just relax and not try to change the whole world in one day. Six years ago, that person had no idea that her students would actually teach her far more about life than she would ever be able to teach them.

And just a few days ago that person, who doesn't ever desire to be a full-time teacher again but who has the utmost respect for those who are, found this quote and it summed up the greatest lesson teaching had taught her in one sentence:

"Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid".

                                                                                                                        Albert Einstein

Has the way you think about the work that you do, or used to do, altered over the years? Did something specific change your attitude or was it a gradually change that came through years of experience?

Monday, 3 February 2014

Italian lessons - the language of coffee

Any thorough examination of the Italian culture must, inevitably, include the discussion of coffee.

Coffee permeates Italian daily life: each morning commences with a coffee, each meal concludes with one and on each visit to the house of a friend, relative, neighbour or new acquaintance, the ice is always broken with the three words vuoi un caffè? - would you like a coffee?

In Australia, I sometimes go out for coffee as a treat. I rarely do it alone and usually arrange with a friend to do so several days (sometimes even more) in advance. We are not surprised when the coffee takes at least a quarter of an hour to arrive. We sit down at a table to chat and end up spending up to an hour in the café. We are used to the exorbitant price we have to pay for this beverage. We're used to it because everything is expensive here these days. The cost in itself makes the outing a treat.

In Sicily, it was not unusual for my partner to pull over on the side of the road next to a bar (what we call cafes in the English-speaking world) and pop in for a coffee four or five times a day. On his way to work, he would stop by the bar for a coffee and a cornetto - a croissant. It is normal there for workers to eat breakfast in the bar on a daily basis. After having finished dinner at home, it is equally normal for people to wander down the street every night to the local bar for an evening coffee. In Italy, no matter which town or city you find yourself in, a bar will almost always be in walking distance from you.

It was mainly men who filled the bars in the mornings and the evenings in Sicily. The reason for this is partially cultural and partially due to current social circumstances. The current social circumstances in Sicily have led to very high unemployment meaning that women (especially in small villages such as the one where we lived) often do not return to work after having children and may not even be employed even if they do not have children. This means they would not be heading off to work in the mornings and are therefore not stopping by the bars for coffee as often as men are. Culturally, Sicilian society is still very much male-dominated and many women in small villages still live a life very attached to the home. So in the evenings, although on a Saturday night or on special occasions whole families would go out to the bar together for gelato and a drink, on a normal night, the women would stay home and look after the kids and the men would wander down to the bar where they would  bump into friends and have a chat and a coffee (and usually an accompanying cigarette).

The custom of congregating publicly to drink coffee is not simply based on habit, addiction to caffeine or a routine excuse to get out of the house, however: it penetrates far deeper into the Italian culture than any of those things. It is an integral part of their social structure. But I will get to that at the end of the post ...

The first time I went into a bar in Sicily, I was quite tired and was looking forward to sitting down and resting for a while. I was shocked when I realised that the bar actually had no tables and chairs and that patrons had to stand (this is not the case in all bars, but it is in many). I quickly had to get used to the fact that the coffee culture in Sicily does not involve almost hour-long sit down chats. Italians don't muck around when they have coffee; it's prepared quickly and drunk quickly - almost invariably standing up. Luckily, it doesn't cost much either. If the cost of a coffee had been equivalent to Australian prices, my partner's four to five cups a day would rapidly have sent him bankrupt!

Sugar is added or omitted according to taste, but it is taken for granted that when you order un caffè you want the short, milk-free coffee that we call an espresso.

Just as it is the language of classical music, Italian is also the language of coffee. All the terms used to describe variations of the drink in the English speaking world are Italian and interesting, these names all mean something descriptive relating to the appearance of the beverage itself. Let's look at the literal meanings of the names of some of these different types of coffee and how these words can be used in everyday language, starting with the all-important espresso.

As you may have guessed, the word espresso is Italian for 'express', a fitting name for this drink that is swigged back speedily while standing up.

* Bevo un espresso ogni mattina - I drink an espresso every morning

* Devo prendere il treno espresso per Roma stasera - I have to catch the express train to Rome tonight


The word ristretto means restricted, narrow, tight, close, limited, shrunk or taken in, depending on the context in which it is used. It comes from the verb restringere. 

A ristretto coffee is a shorter version (usually half the size) of an espresso. Since it contains less water, the flavour of the coffee is therefore more pronounced.

* Mio compagno prende sempre il caffè ristretto - my partner always has a 'ristretto' coffee

* Ho lavato il mio vestito con aqua calda e mi si è ristretto - I washed my dress in hot water and it shrunk


In Italy, if you wanted this type of coffee, you would order a caffè latte - a milk coffee - because the word latte by itself simply means 'milk'.

A man and a woman I know who do not speak Italian and who shall remain nameless, were on holiday a few years ago in Italy. We had arranged to meet them somewhere in Naples (not because we wanted to, but because one of them is related to my son) but our journey from Sicily was long and we inevitably got delayed and weren't there to meet them at the exact time we had agreed upon. When we did get to our meeting point, about an hour later (which isn't too bad considering we were, after all, in a country renowned for its inattention to schedule) we found the two people in question with very long faces indeed. When they explained the cause of their sulkiness, I couldn't help but indulge in a little internal giggle: it turns out that they had bided their time by going to McDonalds to get some coffees. He had wanted a flat white, had asked for "un caffè" and had been given an espresso. But here's the best bit: she had wanted a latte, asked for one, and got a glass of milk :)

* Non piangere sul latte versato - There's no use crying over spilt milk

* Andiamo a prendere un caffè latte - Let's go and get a latte

* Non dimenticare il latte! - Don't forget the milk!

* Il latte è acido - the milk is sour


As you may have already heard, the cappuccino drink was named after the Cappuccini Friars - a reform of the Franciscan movement who broke away from the Francisan Monks in around 1528. While the monks lived a cloistered life, the friars were not enclosed and lived among the people. The Cappuccini Friars dressed in a brown robe with a cappuccio - a hood. With the hood on, the shape and colour of their uniform was symbolic of the wooden cross on which Christ died.

The suffix 'ino' denotes a diminutive in Italian, so a cappuccino literally means a 'little hood'. When steam wands were added to espresso machines around the 1920s, allowing milk to be heated and frothed, the frothy coffee as we know it emerged. When poured correctly, a circle of white is encircled by the brown of the coffee and looks similar to the way these monks, who were nicknamed cappuccini (little hoods), wore their hair ...


                                                                    image source

* Questo cappuccino è troppo caldo! - this cappuccino is too hot!

* Ieri, ho incontrato un giovane frate cappuccino - Yesterday, I met a young Capuchin Friar


The word macchiato literally means 'stained' and comes from the verb macchiare - to stain.

A caffè macchiato (also called an espresso macchiato) is made by adding a little bit of milk to an espresso coffee. The white milk on the black coffee gives the appearance of a stain. Italians would never randomly select a name for something, especially if that something fell into a culinary category. Always, their language is descriptive and symbolic.

* mi sono macchiato la camicia di caffè! - I stained my shirt with coffee!

* ti sei macchiato le mani! - you stained your hands!

* ti sei macchiato i pantoloni? - did you stain your pants?

* 'Il Prato Macchiato di Rosso' è un film d'orrore italiano degli anni settanta - 'The Field Stained Red' is an Italian horror film from the 70s.

                                                           image source

Affogato al caffè

An affogato is a dessert which can be made using various ingredients and does not always include coffee. For example, you can make an affogato alla banana (banana affogato) and affogato alla cioccolata calda (hot chocolate affogato) . The word 'affogato' is Italian for 'drowned'. An affogato al caffè is a scoop of vanilla ice-cream 'drowned' in a shot of coffee - the ice-cream is placed in a glass and an espresso is poured over the top.

* Vorrei un affogato al caffè per favore - I would like an affogato please

* Questo è il lago dov'è affogato la pecora - this is the lake where the sheep drowned

* Il nostro povero sindaco è affogato nel mare - our poor Mayor drowned at sea

Caffè Americano

Literally meaning 'American Coffee', a caffè americano is what know in Australia as a long black - hot water added to an espresso.

If you wanted to order what is known in Australia as a flat white, you could ask for "un caffè americano con latte" - an American coffee with milk.

Zabaione al Caffè

You're unlikely to find this in an Italian bar, but if you feel like trying something different at home, you could whip up this coffee concoction which involves espresso, sugar and beaten egg yolks. I like this milk-free version of the drink so much I even wrote a whole blog post about it.

Caffè Corretto

                                                                           image source

Corretto is Italian for 'corrected', the past participle of the verb correggere - 'to correct'.

I think someone had a bit of fun naming this drink; its ingredients include a shot of espresso and a shot of liqueur (traditionally grappa). So perhaps the original namer of the beverage believed this was the correct way for coffee to be drunk :)

No photos of my own here for this one I'm afraid ... none of the Aussie cafes we visited yesterday afternoon to take last minute shots for this post were serving alcohol-laced coffee!

* Si può fare il caffè corretto anche con la sambuca oppure il brandy - You can also make caffè corretto with sambuca or brandy.

* Questo è grammaticamente corretto in italiano? - is this it grammatically correct in Italian?

* Papa Francesco dice: il Vangelo condanna il politicamente corretto. Parlare con la simplicità dei bambini - Pope Francis says: the gospel condemns the politically correct. Speak with the simplicity of children (a quote from this article in the Italian version of the Huffington Post).

Papa Francesco

Other useful coffee language:

* con zucchero - with sugar

* zuccherato - sugared

* amaro - literally 'bitter' - used when referring to coffee to mean ' without sugar'.

* Io il caffe lo prendo amaro - I take my coffee without sugar

* questo caffè è troppo amaro! - this coffee is too bitter!

* si mette la stevia al posto dello zucchero in questa ricetta - you use stevia instead of sugar in this recipe

* quel ragazzo è dolce come lo zucchero - that boy is as sweet as sugar

So now we have talked about the language of coffee, but we can't conclude the lesson without looking at the importance of coffee to Italians.

When my partner, Giuseppe, first came to live in Australia two years ago, he found it very hard to adjust to our way of life. He was nervously energetic and constantly asked me if we could go out and get a coffee. In the initial weeks that he was here, we were staying at my parents' house which was a ten minute drive in the car from any cafe of any description. We would go out sometimes, but as I mentioned before, the price of coffee is high here and on a couple of memorable occasions,  we actually waited over half an hour to be served two espressos which totalled in price more than what most Italians would earn in any hour working in a bar.

Very quickly, I became frustrated with his insistence of going out for coffee so frequently, and this turned into a rather heated argument, in which I said something about how unnecessary is was to go to the bar every single day several times a day anyway.

"Allora non hai capito niente" - then you haven't understood anything - he told me.

"We don't just go to the bar to drink coffee. We go to the bar to stay connected with what's going on, to keep an ear to the ground, to network. We don't search on the Internet for a plumber or a stone mason or a mechanic. I go to the bar in the morning and I overhear someone say their cousin wants to build a stone wall outside his country house and I say 'I'm a stonemason, get him to give me a call'. Or I bump into my uncle at the bar and I say 'All the toilets are blocked in my house, do you know a good plumber?' and my uncle says 'yeah, my wife's cousin's sister's husband is an excellent plumber. I'll get him to give you a call". Or a friend of mine is moving to our town and is looking for a small place to rent. So I ask the barman "have you heard of any good one-bedroom places up for rent?" and he says "No, but I'll ask around" and three days later when I go to the bar again in the morning, the barman knows someone whose friend's cousin or whose cousin's friend has got the perfect place and it's a done deal.

If you don't go out and drink coffee in Sicily", he said seriously, "you might as well be a hermit. That's how business is done. Coffee is the thread that weaves all these business interactions together".

We've lived in this town in Western Australia for two years now and Giuseppe's got used to the fact that we're a weird mob and we do things differently here. We hadn't gone out together for coffee for quite a while, but yesterday, as we were doing the rounds of the town, visiting three cafes in one afternoon to take the photos for this post, I noticed a funny thing ...

In each place we went, Giuseppe went over and talked to someone. Each time, it was someone I didn't recognise. And each time, when I asked him who he'd been chatting to, the answer wasn't quite a friend's cousin or a cousin's friend, but it was "a workmate", or a "friend of a friend", or a "a friend of a guy at work"...

Ah, you can take the Sicilian out of the coffee culture, but you'll never take the coffee culture out of the Sicilian!

So tell me, qual è il tuo caffè preferito? - what's your favourite coffee?

I hope you'll join us again next Monday ... we'll be talking about family (the only thing in Italy that's more important than coffee!)