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  • Welcome to Our Journal

    Keith is a photographer who believes that kids are nearly perfect and that great images capture a bit of that perfection for all eternity. He loves that children don’t filter their emotions. Living loud is their power. And his job is to capture a moment of their uncontained imaginations: your children, unscripted.

    Melissa is the studio manager, adoring wife, busy mom and occasional writer that believes she is living the most beautiful life in the whole world.

    Keith and Melissa have two amazing daughters, Isabella and Gabriella and a little Jack Russell named Pooch.

    This journal is our personal blog about our family, photography, travel and how we are inspired by children in all their authenticity, one beautiful photograph at a time.

This week’s home away from home | Modica | Sicily Travelogue

modica italymodica italy sicilymodica italy sicilymodica sicilymodica italy

We decided to stay in Modica because I fell in love with the photos I saw on line. Oh my goodness, how could these homes be built on top of each other like this and it’s still standing after all these years? Well let’s just say that our first glimpse of this truly special town did not disappoint.

The first photo is a view from this week’s home way from home. Our little apartment. What a great little find. The building is stacked about 3/4 of the way up one side of old town Modica. The walk to the apartment is truly special. I think it is more than 300 steps down to the main street, but there is no straight path down, just all sorts of meandering little passageways.

A look into our morning. Some breakfast. Some journal writing by Isabella for her summer homework. Gabby being distracted with her iPod while I answer emails. A look behind the curtain! But oh so much fun to walk to the grocery store about 200 steps above us, buy wine in a local wine shop, chocolate from the local chocolate shop (that Modica is well known for – more on that later), and fresh bread from the local artisan! My oh my it is like heaven.

And did I mention how inexpensive and delicious the pizza is? What a magical place.

Day 6 | More Island Hopping | Vulcano Island | Sicily Travelogue

vulcano island sicilyvulcano island sicilyvulcano island sicilyvulcano island sicily

I’m skipping a day and fast forwarding to our last full day in the Aeolian Islands. (lots of great photos from Day 5 to share!) Honestly, when we knew we were headed to Sicily, I started reading through as many guidebooks as I could get my hands on. These tiny little islands didn’t even make my radar. Each guidebook had like a line or two for each island but really not a lot of detail. I am so glad I did a little more research and we decided to spend nearly a week here.

One thing that is striking about these islands are all the active and dormant volcanos. Ok, I admit I don’t know how many or what their exact story is (trust me I will be finding out once I’m stateside and can do some research). But dormant to me means (yes, it’s been awhile since I took French) sleeping, not extinct, just sleeping. Then how on earth can I look out from our hotel balcony on Lipari and see the island of Vulcano and notice that there is a crater with smoke constantly coming out of it? And this is a volcano that you are free to climb to the top and peer into the crater. Yes, this sleeping but smoky volcano. Hence the name Vulcano I presume.

Well we took the ferry over to see what it was all about – just about a 10 minute ferry jaunt from Lipari. We had heard about the healing mud baths but once off the boat, the smell of sulphur was more than my little sommelier to be Gabby could handle. Isabella likened it to living in an egg salad sandwich. So needless to say we did not soak in these baths, but proceeded to pass by at a good clip.

Fresh air was just a few meters away – and so was the entrance for the huge climb to the top of the volcano. I was secretly hoping that there was a taxi service to the top, but since my Italian is pretty much non existent and no taxi presented itself then I have to assume climbing was the only option. Well the kids hadn’t had lunch, the sun was beating down on us, we had one tiny bottle of water and the girls were in birks. The deck of cards was stacked against them climbing to the top with a smile on their faces and if we still wanted to be together as a family after the hike I wasn’t in favor of dragging them up. (Or maybe it was me who would have been worse for wear climbing in these conditions, we will never know for sure!) But I know for certain that it would have ended badly.

So I took one for the team and brought the kids to lunch while Keith strode to the top and took these beautiful photos.


Day 4 | White Beach, Canneto Lipari | Sicily Travelogue

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Another trip to the beach but this time with a friend from NY that we haven’t seen in over a decade. As luck would have it, he is currently living in Cefalu – so he and his wife took the ferry over to spend the day in Lipari.

After a leisurely espresso at our hotel, we set out for the beach. This handsome captain above was selling his wares but we had already purchased a roundtrip on his competitor’s boat. He was more than happy to point out that his boat was running ahead of schedule…and ours not so much. Regardless, we took our little boat ride and ended up at White Beach (which isn’t white at all) in Canneto.

This beach had lots of rocks. But the kids were ok with it. They had some floats, shovels, nets that kept them busy. The water is the perfect temperature – not too warm but easy to get into except for the rocks. Keith was pushing the kids around on their floats and was stung by a jelly fish. Yikes! He actually seemed to be in a bit of pain. He had welts (still does actually) covering a little section on his back.  But in typical Keith fashion he shrugged it off. Ah yes, one of the many differences between him and I. I would probably be off to the ER.

We left the beach with a bag full of sea glass, well worn rocks and some cool lava rocks. Gabby has quite the collection going. I think I might have to lose some along the way or get another suitcase for the ride home.

Another great day!



Day 3 | Island Hopping |Panarea, Stromboli Eolie Islands | Family Trip

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Walking through the old town of Lipari, you can’t help but notice the many store fronts seling day trips to the neighboring islands. I’m not sure how much thought we had given to doing one of these tours ahead of time but the more we thought about it the more we wanted to see what was around us. We chose the tour for Panarea and Stromboli.  The 8 hour tour was only 60 euro for the four of us. I thought a great deal.

The tour took us from the port of Lipari, to a spot right near Panarea for swmming. I loved that the kids jumped right in off the side of the boat and swam around – with huge smiles on their faces!! From there we docked in Panarea for an hour to walk around. What a cute little town. I could imagine spending a week or so here in this quaint litte spot. A handmade granita (lemon and strawberry) made the stop perfect.

Next stop, Stromboli. We noticed clouds hovering over the island right near the top and Gabby pointed out they weren’t coulds, but smoke from the volcano.  The first question that crossed our mind was “how can people live on an island with an active volcano?”

And once we landed on Stromboli, we realized many people live here. There are a couple little towns on the side of the island that doesn’t have lava spewing down it’s side.  Now I have to read more about this place – how is it possible that they feel confident that the lava will flow only on the one side and never affect them?

When you first get off the boat, the port is a little run down. But the black sand/rocky beach is interesting. The area is lined with pop up souvenir shops selling things made from lava. Of course Gabby couldn’t resist the tiny dog statues made from lava dipped in glitter. She had to splurge on a few of these. But we kept walking up the hill through to another town. At the top of the hill was a beautiful little church with a wedding about to begin. We had a drink at a little spot perched above the sea while the kids snacked on delicious house made ice cream bar. Keith and I were still debating how people could live just below this crater that was spewing red fire and hot lava!

We walked back to the boat and enjoyed a dinner made by the captain of penne with olives, capers (we opted for no tuna) and tomato. Served with wine, biscotti & a sweet wine local to Lipari. Then off to see the Stromboli eruptions by night. The boat went around the side of the island so that you could take in the beauty (sounds like a poor choice of words, but it was beautiful) and something I had never laid eyes on before. As the volcano erupted you could see the red lava pouring down the side of the mountain. Very, very interesting to say the least!

A wonerful way to spend the better part of the day! (and suprisingly reasonable priced!)

Thelma V Dugan - August 21, 2014 - 7:36 pm

What a fabulous experience for you & the girls, to actually see, up close (as possible), an ACTIVE volcano! Bella & Gabs should get straight A’s in world Geography, right through college! ! Such an amazing firsthand educational learning experience. Loved your narration about the time & effort & planning it took just to GET TO your destination. What a story, by itself, that made! Wonderful photos, too! Hugs & Kisses to you all! ♡♡ T.& G.

Day 2 | Lipari, Italy | Sicily Travelogue

lipari italy sicilycanneto beach lipariDay 2 on the beautiful Aeolian Island of Lipari started with this beautiful view at breakfast. I’m not going to lie, we were definitely deliriously tired when we finally laid down to sleep after a million hours of being awake and traveling what seemed like half way around the world. Breakfast is only served from 8-10am so we had to set an alarm to make sure we were up at 9. That being said, we had close to 9 hours of sleep, which was amazing!

We woke up refreshed and happy to be sitting out staring at this view of Lipari Port. The temperature couldn’t be more perfect, maybe in the 80’s with a soft breeze. I had planned on hot humid temps, so this is a pleasant surprise for sure.

After breakfast, the kids were happy to head to the beach. We ended up at Canneto Beach a short ride from the town of Lipari. Of course, even though I knew the beaches were going to be rocky, I still forget to get water shoes for the kids. To my surprise, they were ok with the rocks. Everyone enjoyed the water. It is so much more enjoyable swallowing an unexpected gulp of saltwater from the Mediterranean – it is almost like a sweet salt water! A contrast for sure to the strong salt water we are used to in the Atlantic or Pacific.

We had a beautiful day of lounging under a thatched umbrella at a little beach club in this picturesque little town, taking in views in every direction, eating a lunch of a delicious cazzuto (open faced toast with olives, capers, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, sundered tomatoes). Yum Yum Yum!

I have to say that Lipari is surprisingly affordable. The prices to eat out are really fair. Drinks, glasses of wine, etc are priced at or US prices, which isn’t always the case when traveling around Europe for sure. Putting aside the fact that air fare can be ridiculous to get to Europe from the west coast, a week in Lipari is much more affordable than a beach week in Southern California! If only it was closer!