Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cocktail Challenge......

........or how the government entices us to drink more than we probably should!!!

I live in Ontario (Canada), where 99% of all alcohol sales (except "run of the mill" beer sales) are controlled by the provincial government under the governing body known as The Liquor Control Board of Ontario or the LCBO. The LCBO has a monopoly on all retail outlets that sell liquor in the form of wine, spirits and designer beers. Sales of "your common garden variety" beer is controlled by a commercial conglomerate, sanctioned by the government, which owns 99% of all the retail outlets that sell beer. These stores are aptly named "The Beer Store."

Anyone importing liquor - more than what you can carry off the plane - must import it through the LCBO and pay their surcharges. Even restaurants have to buy their wine through the LCBO and then add on their corkage charges (usually double). It makes wine with dinner out, quite pricey! For some reason the government has deemed it their "duty" to protect Canadians - in Ontario anyway - from themselves and their nasty habit of imbibing.

This is why I find their advertising somewhat hypocritical!! Given that they make huge profits with little or no competition, the LCBO is then able to produce high end glossy magazines on a regular bases - often weekly - to promote the sales of, you guessed it, liquor!! OK they usually have lots of lovely recipes in their mags and their pictures are in a social context - BBQs, friendly parties etc. but they still recommend that you drink, drink and drink some more. Nor do they limit their promotions to the lower alcohol libations of beer and wine. There are lots of colourful centrefolds of Rums, Ryes and Vodkas to get the tastes buds excited.

Wine With Dinner

Timed for our Canada Day weekend was a flyer that came with both newspapers on Saturday. It's heading was LOVE followed by a Maple Leaf and contained 45 pages of what you should be drinking this weekend, just to make sure you were being patriotic enough!! They even commissioned a celebrity cocktail "concocter" to stir up some timely creations, such as, "Strawberry Glacier" - Vodka, Strawberries and Rhubarb - blend and serve. Or Muskoka Maple Splash - Whiskey, mint, peaches and maple syrup - shake and serve. And finally one C. C. Express with another brand of Whiskey plus honey and beer (beer?) Well the more we drink, the more money in the till and really the "control" is not about how much Ontario citizens should be drinking, it's all about how much can we get them to drink and legally get away with it.

Now, I like my wine with meals as much as anyone, but I do think that having the government promote drinking to the extent that they do, is a little over the top. Then again, if it weren't them, it would be private companies and maybe the ads would be worse - damned if you do and damned if you don't.

That's my patriotic rant for the year!!

Have a great July 1- 4 and any bank holidays over the pond!!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lighten up!!!!

I decided I needed to perk things up a little and since my daughter had mentioned a website "Glowcity" (I actually mistakenly called it "Glowworld" in my last post.) I decided to pop over and see what they had that was enlightening!!

1. They had lots of regulation "glow in the dark" sports balls for most of the common sports - basketball, soccer, football & mini football, a light up ping pong table and an illuminated basketball hoop. There is even a kit to light up your bike and your running shoes. I can see the phantom athletes emerging!!

2. There was another whole section on masks. They had the cutest faces. I could envision groups of people walking around at night wearing these. You would definitely attract a following - maybe an instant party!!

The beach at night

3. Add to the masks black suits with illuminated outlines that make you look like a stick figure and you have the complete outfit. Clearly for the "light" hearted.

4. Other accessories include illuminated glasses, gloves, cups, bean bags (bean bags?) and roses.

5. There were even light up T-Shirts.

This sounds like so much fun!!  Maybe I need to get an outfit or just some glasses for Nuit Blanche this October

I also think that we need illuminated umbrellas for when it rains at night or for all those who would like to go "moon bathing." Obviously the party starts when the sun goes down!!

Have a brilliant day!!

PS I'm behind 5 posts in my blog a day challenge for 2013, mainly because I didn't have wifi for a good deal of the time on holidays, so I am posting twice today. Now I'm just behind 4 posts!!

Just Hit Refresh

I wish it were that simple. One of the problems with writing every day and every other day, the year before, is that you end up covering a lot of topics of general interest, a good number of obscure topics, since there are fewer of them, and if your area of "intense" interest (knitting) happens to appeal to .001% of the population and that niche is oversubscribed by hundreds of thousands of blogs all just on knitting (and maybe a little crochet), then you start thinking that maybe a blog on cooking (I know that there are millions of them) might be a little more focused. Plus, I would get to write one blog for each of the 21 uses of cucumber that you/I never knew existed.

Yes I know I can probably do that now. However I have the sense that my readership - a very selective group :) may start rolling their eyes at a seventh post on cucumbers, even if I can produce a photo of hundreds of dead insects proving that cucumbers in tin foil make a great pesticide!! Alas.

So I am here thinking about all the marvellous people who were able to either re-invent themselves or  to make the mundane - i.e. pictures of dishes in the kitchen sink - marvellous!! Now, in the two hours that I've been up - 7:00am-9:00am, I have encountered some mundane "events" (can I use that word?) that have possibilities.

1. My daughter came down to ask how long it would take for a package to come from Rochester NY to Toronto. Well since Rochester is about 3.5hrs away by car, it could take anywhere from 3 to 7 or 10 days. The post office has little sense of distance and only a marginally better sense of direction. She was planning on ordering a "glow in the dark" soccer ball from a site called "Glow World." I feel a post in the making. I would also love to video a midnight soccer game with a glow in the dark ball.

2. While checking my post in a fibre machinery buy & sell page on FB, I came across another post of someone selling mannequin feet. That's right he/she had several pairs of feet and an extra two left ones - hmmmm.... The price was $10.00 a pair and by the time I had read the post there were just two pairs left and the two "left" ones, if you know what I mean. The focus of the ad was that you could use these forms to felt slippers. However, since all the feet were US size 8, there were some limitations and if you didn't know beans about felting you would still be scratching your head. There is something about phantom hands and/or feet that is compelling...maybe.

3. Finally I read a post by Mental Floss - 10 Body Parts You Could Do Without - OK, maybe a blog on used body parts.

The picture is not albino worms :) It's trofie in pesto, a speciality of the Liguria region in Italy.  Maybe a cooking blog is not such a good idea, I know that I would find the oddest foods and recipes :)

Have a great day!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Found Poetry

What to do when there is nothing else to do. Well, I often resort to Found Poetry. It's an idle way of taking a preset arrangement of words and either re-arranging them or keeping them in the same order but putting in the "significant pauses" that make the words "poetry" or thoughtful comments on life.

A Restaurant Study

I usually use something that is close at hand and re-arrange the words to create something interesting.

Author of All Time

English and...
A hundred foreign languages,
A billion copies.
Outsold only by
The Bible,

She died in 1976....Agatha Christie

From the back cover of an Agatha Christie mystery that I am about to start.

The picture - A restaurant in Italy. The last two books that I have read by Agatha Christie had detailed descriptions of people in dining rooms.

Have a wonderful day!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Utne Reader

When my kids were in school there were always fund raising projects and everyone contributed. One of these fund-raisers was a magazine campaign, where you subscribed to 4 or 5 magazines and renewed them each year. Since Mental Floss, subject of my last two posts, and Utne Reader were on the list, I ordered them. Both magazines were unique in their own way.

However, I used to have huge guilt trips after reading each issue of Utne (rhymes with chutney), because of what I wasn't doing for the environment, freedom of expression or some grass roots ideal!! On the other hand, I used to get a huge headache reading Mental Floss, just trying to understand their very intellectual, often very obscure articles. Both magazines were, however, mind expanding in spite of the pain!!

Street Art, maybe

Fast forward 10 years and here I am again looking at both their websites and espousing their articles or posts, as ideas for blog topics. Yesterday,  I "liked" Unte Reader on FB. They are not as prolific in their posts as Mental Floss. They still, it seems, want people to subscribe to a magazine.

Here's a sampling of the topics on their site today

  • Welcome to the (Don't Be) Evil Empire
  • Facing Changing Climate, San Francisco Prepares to Share
  • Medicinal Marijuana Comes to Washington DC
  • In Praise of Darkness (and Light)
  • Final Footprint Introduces Natural Burial in the U.S.
  • Street Art Illuminates City's Broken Promise
  • The Loss of Food Rights: How the Government Is Fighting Local Farms
  • Arsenic Contamination in Graveyards: How the Dead Are Hurting the Environment
  • Choosing a Career in the Era of Too Much Choice
  • Competitive Running: The Path to Human Endurance
  • Land Deals in Africa: The Pros and Cons
  • Native American Influence in the History of the Blues

  • Lots of food for thought here!!

    Have a wonderful day!!

    Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    Flossed Neurons and Blog Ideas!!

    Yesterday I posted about an article from the website Mental Floss. I decided to "like" them on FB and subsequently receive their regular posts. Well, since yesterday, I have received 4 posts in 24 hours. That's one post every 6 hours. Topics were as follows:

    1. Twenty Facts About Your Favourite Liquors - this could turn into 20 separate blog posts, with personal comments about your own experiences with noted liquors or the ones they have missed. For example, I didn't see Screech listed.

    2. Seven Games People Played in Colonial America - Possibly another 7 posts, particularly if you compare them with the ones played today. "Eye Spy" for example has international implications :)

    3. The Time Napolean Was Attacked By Rabbits - Lots of possibilities here, especially if you relate it to other attacks on other notable figures, including yourself.

    4. There is a serious side to Mental Floss too. One of their posts yesterday was about Anne Frank's  "The Diary of A Young Girl." Sixty-Six years ago today, her diary was published. It is now available in 67 languages and more than 30 million copies have been sold. The post was entitled "10 Things You Should Know About Anne Frank's The Diary Of A Young Girl" - possibly another 10 ideas.

    That would make 38 ideas in 24 hours. I really have no excuse not to blog, daily!!

    The pictures? - Just a bit of nonsense from the holiday!!

    Have a sweet day!!

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    Mental Floss

    I like the website Mental Floss. Actually I used to subscribe to their magazine. It is somehow linked to Mensa - the organization for people with IQs over 150 - not me! They actually have some pretty cool T-Shirts. So when a friend of mine posted an article from their site I couldn't help but pass it on. Here it is....
    English has changed a lot in the last several hundred years, and there are many words once used that we would no longer recognize today. For whatever reason, we started pronouncing them differently, or stopped using them entirely, and they became obsolete. There are some old words, however, that are nearly obsolete, but we still recognize because they were lucky enough to get stuck in set phrases that have lasted across the centuries. Here are 12 lucky words that survived by getting fossilized in idioms.

    1. WEND

    You rarely see a "wend" without a "way." You can wend your way through a crowd or down a hill, but no one wends to bed or to school. However, there was a time when English speakers would wend to all kinds of places. "Wend" was just another word for "go" in Old English. The past tense of "wend" was "went" and the past tense of "go" was "gaed." People used both until the 15th century, when "go" became the preferred verb, except in the past tense where "went" hung on, leaving us with an outrageously irregular verb.

    2. DESERTS

    The "desert" from the phrase "just deserts" is not the dry and sandy kind, nor the sweet post-dinner kind. It comes from an Old French word for "deserve," and it was used in English from the 13th century to mean "that which is deserved." When you get your just deserts, you get your due. In some cases, that may mean you also get dessert, a word that comes from a later French borrowing.

    3. EKE

    If we see "eke" at all these days, it's when we "eke out" a living, but it comes from an old verb meaning to add, supplement, or grow. It's the same word that gave us "eke-name" for "additional name," which later, through misanalysis of "an eke-name" became "nickname."

    4. SLEIGHT

    "Sleight of hand" is one tricky phrase. "Sleight" is often miswritten as "slight" and for good reason. Not only does the expression convey an image of light, nimble fingers, which fits well with the smallness implied by "slight," but an alternate expression for the concept is "legerdemain," from the French léger de main," literally, "light of hand." "Sleight" comes from a different source, a Middle English word meaning "cunning" or "trickery." It's a wily little word that lives up to its name.

    5. DINT

    "Dint" comes from the oldest of Old English where it originally referred to a blow struck with a sword or other weapon. It came to stand for the whole idea of subduing by force, and is now fossilized in our expression "by dint of X" where X can stand for your charisma, hard work, smarts, or anything you can use to accomplish something else.


    Nowadays we see this word in the expression "to run/ride roughshod" over somebody or something, meaning to tyrannize or treat harshly. It came about as a way to describe the 17th century version of snow tires. A "rough-shod" horse had its shoes attached with protruding nail heads in order to get a better grip on slippery roads. It was great for keeping the horse on its feet, but not so great for anyone the horse might step on.
    Languages like ancient structures need to be preserved
    7. FRO
    The "fro" in "to and fro" is a fossilized remnant of a Northern English or Scottish way of pronouncing "from." It was also part of other expressions that didn't stick around, like "fro and till," "to do fro" (to remove), and "of or fro" (for or against).

    8. HUE

    The "hue" of "hue and cry," the expression for the noisy clamor of a crowd, is not the same "hue" as the term we use for color. The color one comes from the Old English word híew, for "appearance." This hue comes from the Old French hu or heu, which was basically an onomatopoeia, like "hoot."

    9. KITH

    The "kith" part of "kith and kin" came from an Old English word referring to knowledge or acquaintance. It also stood for native land or country, the place you were most familiar with. The expression "kith and kin" originally meant your country and your family, but later came to have the wider sense of friends and family.

    10. LURCH

    When you leave someone "in the lurch," you leave them in a jam, in a difficult position. But while getting left in the lurch may leave you staggering around and feeling off-balance, the "lurch" in this expression has a different origin than the staggery one. The balance-related lurch comes from nautical vocabulary, while the lurch you get left in comes from an old French backgammon-style game called lourche. Lurch became a general term for the situation of beating your opponent by a huge score. By extension it came to stand for the state of getting the better of someone or cheating them.

    11. UMBRAGE

    "Umbrage" comes from the Old French ombrage (shade, shadow), and it was once used to talk about actual shade from the sun. It took on various figurative meanings having to do with doubt and suspicion or the giving and taking of offense. To give umbrage was to offend someone, to "throw shade." However, these days when we see the term "umbrage" at all, it is more likely to be because someone is taking, rather than giving it.

    12. SHRIFT

    We might not know what a shrift is anymore, but we know we don't want to get a short one. "Shrift" was a word for a confession, something it seems we might want to keep short, or a penance imposed by a priest, something we would definitely want to keep short. But the phrase "short shrift" came from the practice of allowing a little time for the condemned to make a confession before being executed. So in that context, shorter was not better.
    I love the way we have preserved these words. I hate to hear that a language has died or a usage, within a language, has been lost. I know we can't hang onto everything, but preserving a language is a little like maintaining our biodiversity, in the sense that language puts an emphasis on what a culture deems important. When a language evolves, new phrases are emphasized and old ones are forgotten. Losing the old is like losing a bit of history, a bit of what made us who we are today!

    BTW when was the last time you heard the phrase "fossilized in idiom?" Gotta love it!!

    Have a memorable day!!

    Monday, June 24, 2013

    When life gives you melons.....

    ......have a ball. Well what I really mean to say is, make "melon balls." I have said before that I am a gadget "groupie." I especially like kitchen gadgets and I have written before about my cherry pitter, and my mill for grinding nuts. I even have a philosophical treatise on sieves - nothing gets by me. :) So while looking at my blank screen and searching frantically for a blog topic, I did what usually works. I got up, moved around a little - not too much - I have trouble thinking and walking at the same time, one of the reasons I never chew gum!!

    I opened the drawer in the kitchen that houses the small utensils - the odds and ends that don't fit into the Lazy Susan. Surely there must be something of interest in here. Somewhere beyond the safety pins, rubber bands, toothpicks and soccer ball inflater - definitely an essential because it clears the kitchen of children under foot, once you have inflated the soccer ball of course, I found my trusty melon baller. Again, like my nut grinder, I haven't used it in years. However, there was a time in my life when everyone I knew was making melon balls to fancy up a fruit salad or something. I just couldn't be left out.

    Melon Baller

    I bought one, used it for a month or two and then decided that chopping cantaloupe and watermelon was much easier than trying to make ornaments out of them!! So my melon baller was relegated to the back of the drawer and I moved on to another craze, maybe it was skewers because I also have a lot of them in the drawer too!!

    I can now spend the day pondering why there is a small hole in the bottom of each cup. Any help here would be appreciated. The engineer in me says that the hole is there to help push out a stubborn ball or two. Or maybe it's there to let the air escape while using the tool. I'm not sure that the discussion is up there with sieves, but they both have holes. And if I apply a little Leonard Cohen - we all need holes or cracks, that's how the light gets in - my humble baller is right up there with the poets!!

    Have a wonderful day!!

    PS The last paragraph of this post, in the writing analyzer, was rated as James Joyce!!

    Sunday, June 23, 2013

    Who are you....?

    Have you every considered that you may actually be the embodiment of another entity? Well, I never have until the other day..... Roy Akerman, a blogger who is active in several of the same blogging groups that I am and in fact started the Monday Thursday Blog group shared a post from Frugal Science on writing. This blog post in turn contained a link to a site that would analyze your writing style and tell you, which author you are most like.

    I couldn't resist!! I clicked through to the site. Cut out a piece from a recent blog post and pasted it in the analyzer. It took a second to determine that I write like Dan Brown. Hmmmm, I wasn't convinced, so I clipped out a section of another post and this time, I was told that I write like Margaret Atwood - I wish!! This I know isn't true, so I tried it again and this time I was Cory Doctorow. Well, it may be good for the ego, but not very accurate.

    I tried the analyzer again today, just before writing this post. The first time it said Cory Doctorow again. Hmmmm, maybe there is something here, after all both Atwood and Doctorow are Canadians, based in Toronto. Perhaps environment really does have an effect on your writing style. I had to try the analyzer one more time. I clipped a piece from the Nanowrimo "novel" that I completed in November 2012. This time I was compared to P.H. Lovecraft. Yikes!!!!

    The Shadow Knows

    What most of these writers have in common is a strong science fiction, fantasy writing style, with the exception of Lovecraft who is known as the grandfather of horror - horrors!!! So now I believe that an alien has inhabited my body and/or mind and if I don't keep an eye on myself, I might turn into some raving horrific witch that writes about forbidden rituals - well I was going to write about ironing :)

    The irony here (no pun intended) is that I never read Science Fiction or Fantasy and certainly not Horror. In fact, I rarely read fiction, although I've taken to reading mysteries lately because I needed something absorbing, a page turner, while travelling!!

    All things considered, it's a fun exercise. Try it. I'd love to know "Who you are."

    The picture?  The closest I had to something "scary."

    Have a great day!!

    Saturday, June 22, 2013

    Six Billion Photos....

    I read an article this morning in the Globe and Mail on photography by staff correspondent, Ian Brown. Ironically it was in the "Focus" section of the paper and it was entitled "Six Billion Photos and Nothing to See." The author was one of three renown photographers who were judges of The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival's photography competition 2013. Although they received more than 500 submissions, they failed to find a winner - the first time that this has happened in 18 years.

    Brown went on to say that although he saw many gorgeous photos, not one of them told a story. The criterion of the competition was to take a photo of wildlife or wilderness that told a story. The rest of the article was a lament of the digital age and the subsequent loss of the real meaning of photography. To the author, photography today is just a narcissistic collection of snapshots rather than a documentation of the human condition.

    The article mentions photographers who still shoot in black and white film because they have to take time to consider their subjects, the composition, the angles etc - film and its processing is expensive so care has to be taken. This is photography as a studied art, quite unlike the unlimited free shots available with a digital, that can be taken and processed in seconds - can this really be called art? Editing images is also more expensive and time consuming with film than with digital pictures. Although the contest didn't rule out altered photos, the judges made comments, such as, "edited incomprehensibly."

    Alas, Ian Brown is a voice crying in the wilderness.  The times, they have changed and no amount of censure will stop the proliferation of something that is "free." Authors have seen it with book sites that offer free downloads of anything in print or offer free publishing of anything that you want to see in digital print. I have seen these changes in my small part of the craft industry. Instructional material or classes, that people once paid for, are now free in both print and video on-line. Their argument is that the instructions are free so that people will buy the materials needed from the site. It is true that at the moment, we still have to buy concrete objects. However, once 3-D printers take hold, almost anyone will be able to create almost anything on the spot.

    Is there a story here?

    I think that we all have to look seriously, if we want a job or a business, at programs for 3-D printers. If they can make guns, they can make knitting needles and yarn. If they can create human tissue, they can print food!! Hmmmmm, what was that line about wildlife and wilderness? I think that maybe I have to get back to nature, to the basics. This, of course, will be the counter movement to all these mechanical advances, so, yes perhaps you could invest in a camp ground or a Woodstock - something that sets the soul free!!

    The picture? I took it at a side street in Florence. There were streams of people passing by, all stopping to take a picture or have their picture taken beside the "cute little car." I'm not sure it tells a story, but the words on the awning do. They read, "Souvenir Kodak Film."

    Have a wonderful day!!

    Friday, June 21, 2013


    I always like to record my first impressions of something new, because so often we assimilate and what seemed so different once, too often becomes commonplace.  It's fun to look back.

    Roman Ruins

    1. I was surprised by the number of people I saw smoking. More young people than middle aged were smoking and more women, than I would have expected. It's really rare to see people openly smoking in Toronto.

    2. The resistance to taking credit cards was surprising. I almost never carry much cash and I really resent people who expect me to pay in cash.

    3. Credit cards worked at the ATMs, which in turn always worked for us, though I am told that sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.

    4. Debit cards never worked. My son's didn't and we were behind a number of frustrated tourists who were trying to use them at ATMs.

    Textures in Rome

    5. The number of people in their 50s, 60s and maybe older who were out hiking on very difficult trails in full gear was awesome!

    6. Unfortunately too many of these hikers looked their age or older. I have always thought that if you do a lot of exercise and get out doors, you should somehow look refreshed. They didn't. "Say not that the struggle naught availeth!"

    7. There were an amazing number of people old and young riding bicycles. The bikes weren't new or fancy, they were a mode of transportation that was obviously embraced.

    Steps down and up to our place in Rome

    8. I was amazed at the number of restaurants every where. Eating out is not cheap, but the restaurants were full. I know we were in tourist areas, but really.

    9. The lack of emphasis on washroom facilities was noted!! There was usually one door which everyone entered. One stall was for men and the other for women. Some things never change.

    10. The emphasis on security was a concern. Our flat in Rome had the most complicated locking system. You turned the key 4 times, each time releasing one of four bolts. Then you pressed a button to activate an electric lock. In our other flat we had to roll down the outside metal "shades" every time we left the place. Most of the shops have corrugated metal "blinds" that roll down and lock, so there is no window shopping at night and the graffiti on the corrugate creates the feeling of an instant slum, even in the better areas.


    11. The skill with which crowds were channeled and directed was impressive. With so many famous sights, crowd control is critical. However, directions were very clear, people were polite, patient and everyone moved forward in a timely fashion.

    12. Crowding on public transportation was everywhere. Our shuttle to the airport on the last day was late in arriving and late in leaving. It was packed. The problem was a sticky door, so all doors were opened and closed many times. Every time the doors opened more people squeezed on with luggage, however when one woman tried to get on with a child in a stroller, we collectively screamed "NO." The buses were just as bad and I'm sure the subway was too at rush hour.

    13. English is Italy's second language. All public announcements were given in Italian first and then English. It really didn't matter though because you couldn't hear either over the din. :)

    Fish Market

    My husband gets to pick the next place, after we have paid off this trip and fixed some major repairs on the house. Don't know when, don't know where. I'm just so glad I had this one!!


    Thursday, June 20, 2013

    Tastes of Tuscany

    Both nights that we ate out in Florence, we ate at the sidewalk restaurant, Za Za. It is perched on a corner of the square which houses the huge glass-roofed food market. This market, in turn, is surrounded by the umbrella-ed stalls of merchants of every description. Firenza must be the leather capital of the world. There were more booths selling leather than booths selling T-shirts, scarves, jewellery, trinkets, etc. put together!

    The restaurant was busy (a good sign). The street was busy. The market was chaotic and the atmosphere electric!! Za Za has an extensive menu of meat and seafood. One of the specialties of the area is very large thick steaks from certain cattle in the region. We inquired about the dish. You had to order a minimum of 800g and the price was €38.00. I couldn't begin to imagine eating almost two pounds of steak, even if it is served ultra rare!!

    I opted for the smaller entrecôte with roasted rosemary potatoes and spinach. What was totally amazing though was my appetizer. I ordered the Antipasto for one at €10.00 and this is what I got.

    Mushroom & tomato toasts.
    There were also two deep fried veal "balls" on the plate, but they were devoured before I could even find my camera.

    Cold Meat & Fried Eggplant
    I shared every plate even though all of us had starters.

    Small Omelette Starter
    This I cut into four wedges!

    Two Pates
    One of the pates was liver and the other was mushroom. Everyone dipped in.

    Marinated Artchoke
    Actually my husband and I were planning to split the two appetizers that we ordered. Mine was so massive that we all had some, but I still made room for my share of the plate of artichokes. No wonder I gained five pounds!!

    It was a wonderful trip!!  We're home now. I'm just catching up on the missed posts because of the lack of wifi. I'll do an overall summary tomorrow and then it's back to reality. 

    Wednesday, June 19, 2013


    It was very hot when we arrived in Florence - 34C under brilliant sun and equally brilliant blue skies. We took a taxi from the station to our hotel, which was located on the second floor of a four floor "apartment" building. This arrangement is fairly typical of economy hotels in Europe - ours was rated as a three star hotel. It had four single beds, two of which were pushed together to form a double bed. The bathroom was very clean and relatively new. Although the room itself was a little dark, and could have used some fresh paint, we paid the equivalent of just $380.00 CDN for two nights, which also included a very substantial continental breakfast.

    From the terrace of our hotel

    Our intention was to do a quick overview of the city, because it was a last minute thought. Originally we had planned to go back to Rome and stay in a hotel for two nights there, before catching our flight home. A great change of plans, even though it did make our Monday very busy, because we had to take a train from Florence to Rome and then a shuttle train to the airport.

    The Arno river and the Tuscan Hills

    The only major glitch in the travel plans so far has been that we had booked tickets before we left Canada for the Monday trains and we did it before our flight times had been changed. When we checked our flight schedule a few days before we were to leave on holiday, we found out that our plane was leaving an hour and a half earlier. It was too late to change our train tickets. However, we were told that we could easily change them in Italy - not so.

    We contacted our travel agent and he said that we should buy new tickets. Get the original ones stamped as "unused" and then apply for a refund on our travel insurance. In reading the fine print we realized that we had to cancel these tickets in the city of departure - Florence, so we spent another few hours at the train station here trying to sort this out.

    Mountains of Gelato

    We were again told that we couldn't change them. (We knew this. We just thought we would try again. Things are not that rigid in Italy and information given in one place could vary dramatically from that given in the another.)  Yes, we couldn't change them, but we could travel and hour earlier or later on the same tickets, for a small fee, which we could pay on the train. BINGO!  This is all we needed to give us breathing space for the flight. We were originally told the cost to change the tickets would be €80.00. However, when we actually paid the money, it was only €32.00.

    A small section of the Duomo.

    My husband's comment was, "How do they control seating and capacity, if you can rearrange your plans like this, at the last moment?" Here is where you do the Mediterranean "shrug," throw up your hands, and don't even attempt to explain the inexplicable!!!  How they ever managed to unite the whole of Europe, as a common entity, is beyond amazing!!

    Just as aside here. On another trip, I don't think that I would book train tickets from overseas. First of all they booked "first class" for us - definitely not necessary and you miss out on deals that might be available at the time. Yes you may have to get in line to buy the tickets (do this a day or two before your departure day.) However, when you leave, you just activate your ticket at one of the many machines on the platforms and "Roberto's your uncle."  :)

    The video is for a wonderful blogger that I follow Caro Ness, who writes almost all her posts in poetry.

    The Bells of Tuscany

    Verses and stanzas
    Say the bells of Firenza.

    More tomorrow, with pictures of food.

    Tuesday, June 18, 2013


    On Thursday we went by train to visit the other two towns, Manarola and Riomaggiore. These again are very pretty places with houses tiered up the mountainside, all looking out to the beautiful sea. Neither of the towns have beaches, but the swimmers and sunbathers lie out on the rocks and enjoy the gorgeous clear water.

    Manarola on the Rocks
    Some swimmers are a little more adventurous, climbing the cliffs to dive off.

    I just sat on the rocks and let the vacation come to me this time. I also made friends with some of the "locals" :)

    Friendly Seagull
    On Friday we dragged the kids off the beach to at least see some of the other towns. We came again to Riomaggiore, this time by ferry. It was a delightful way to visit the area. Saturday is a travelling day. We got a deal on tickets to Firenza (Florence.) It was just a special "two for one" that the railway was offering. We catch one train to Pisa, where we change trains to Firenza. We'll be staying at a small hotel near the centre of the city, which we booked again on a special before we left. I am told that they have wifi!

    Posting again soon.

    Saturday, June 15, 2013


    Today we did another walk, this time from Monterossa to Vanazza where the path climbs from 5m above sea level to 460m. I found the hike a little easier today, than yesterday, either because I am getting used to the steep stairs or my muscles are getting stronger. In any event, it was still a challenging walk, because there weren’t nearly as many railings along the path as there were yesterday, also the path was quite narrow at times and there were several streams to ford – a technical term for jump over and hope that you don’t slip and fall half way down the mountain. 

    The challenges are worth it though, because your rewards are absolutely magnificent views of the coast, gorgeous displays of wildflowers from the terraces above and below the path and the wonderful feeling of connecting with the people who created these paths hundreds of years ago.

    Wildflowers in Cinque Terre

     There are always people of all ages and abilities on the walks. When I set out I didn’t realize that I really have a significant fear of heights, plus my balance isn’t as great as I would have liked, so I went slowly, clung to the walls, where there were no railings and never looked down on a sheer drop!

    Vernazza coming down the Mountain
    The kids just stayed on the beach and made friends from all over Europe. Access to the internet has been difficult. There are only a few cafes with wifi and their opening times vary from day to day. I tried paying for some time at a small hotel, but the passwords were very cumbersome and I still couldn’t get a connection. Finally one of the waitresses gave me her own personal access code and it worked.

    Marinated Anchovies

    We’ve eaten out every night except for the night it rained. The food has been excellent, however, the service again varies from restaurant to restaurant. We have so far had only one bad experience.

    Local Catch - Monterosso
    Last night I had marinated anchovies as a starter and the mixed grilled fish platter. There were five different types of fish on my plate, including Swordfish, Cuttlefish, a small whole whitefish, another filetted one I didn’t recognize and two grilled prawns.

    Since the two walks that are the easiest are closed for repairs, we will probably just take the train to the last two towns, Manarola and Riomagiorre to admire their unique characteristics. There is also a ferry between the towns, but since we have paid for the train pass, it makes sense to use it.

    Hope to have wifi today.