Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Clothing Quandary

He's taking me out to a fancy restaurant in Calgary for New Year's.  On the way, he wants to stop at a favourite provincial park of his, so that we can do some winter photography together.

Considering that we'll be hiking in the cold first, and then going out where we'll be expected to dress up, I don't know what to wear.  This is complicated by the fact that I currently own one fancy-ish blouse, and I wore it when we went out on our first date.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Guy #2

I haven't said much about guy #2 yet.  Mostly,  that's because I haven't been sure what to say.    At first, I almost stopped seeing him  because he was so... nice... that something didn't seem right.  I had trouble believing his sincerity, and thought maybe he was trying to manipulate me.

I don't have a great track record with men.  Some of my past relationships were with guys who talked down to me or bossed me around, and then I moved on to a charmer who criticized me so much he gave me an ulcer before doing me the favour of cheating and giving me the incentive to move on.  From there, I had a few relationships with guys that I had to walk on eggshells and be careful around, lest I appear too interested and make them feel pressured to commit.  There have been a few relatively good guys mixed in there over the years, but it's fairly safe to say that my expectations are pretty low... which is why I've been single for as long as I have.

But, guy #2 stayed in touch just enough to keep him on my mind without making me feel crowded.   When we are together, he's positive and optimistic.  He pays attention when we talk, and remembers our conversations later.  He talks about (suggests) future plans, as though he has no fear that I'll read between the lines.   If a day goes by without us having a reason to talk, he sends me a quick message, just to let me know I've been on his mind.  And so, even though I questioned him at the beginning, I've been responding to his emails and calls, and going out with him when I can.  It's been good... it's been pretty great, actually.  It's taken a while, but I've come to the conclusion that he really is a genuinely nice guy who simply wants to treat me like I'm something special.

It's early days, no doubt.  We are still getting to know each other and testing the waters.  I'm not sure what will happen with him, but I think it'll be fun to figure it out.    Even more, I've realized that if this is what relationships are supposed to be like, I've been missing out.

ps - "guy #2" isn't a great name.  He got it originally because I was getting to know Dr Sheldon Cooper (AKA Guy #1) when we first got in touch, and he's kept it because he shares a first name with my good friend's husband.  
We were either going to have to go with Your _______ and My _____, or else ____#1 and ____#2.
Right now, it seems presumptuous to call him My ______, so he gets ______#2.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Final Confirmation for Cotton

Cotton dog is NOT in heart failure!!!  He has an enlarged heart and a murmur, but it has not yet progressed to the point that we need to worry.

The problem is with his trachea, which is irritating his throat and causing excessive coughing.  So, we increase his cough inhibitors, and keep a close eye to make sure it doesn't get worse.  In the meantime, all signs indicate that he could be a happy, healthy little dog for a good while yet.

You can't see this, but I have a huge, stupid smile on my face.  I am very happy to hear this news!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cut and Run...

I went out with the first guy (guy #1) a little over a week ago.  He has called daily, asking when we can go out again since.  We've now gone out three times.

The second guy (guy #2) contacted me the day I first met guy #1.  We have chatted online or talked on the phone almost every day since.  We met on Thursday.  He wants to go out again, but I've been putting him off.

Considering how we met,  I feel as though I'm in the "getting to know" stage, and am not ready to jump into a relationship with either.  Both of them seem to act as though they expect that we're in an exclusive relationship together already, calling daily, texting often and expecting to have top priority on any free time that I might have.

Here's the thing: I've been single for a long time.  I've lived alone for a long time.  While I do want somebody in my life, I cherish my alone time.   I'm "on" all day at work.   I juggle phone calls, emails, texts and IMs, all the while doing my best to act professional, use tact and put my best foot forward.  At the end of the day, I want to crash on the couch in my flannel pjs and confine my social responsibilities to not drooling while within the presence of other human beings.

That, added to my whole proclivity to being shy,  makes the act of going through the motions to get to know these guys a very stressful thing.

I don't like dating.  I love being in a relationship, after I get past the hard part and get to that level of comfort with a guy; but I hate dating.  Some people think it's exciting - I think it's hell.  So, I've been battling my urge to cut and run from these guys.  I've been telling myself that they're good guys, and that I should give them a chance.  Once I get to know them better, I'll know what I want, and if I want to move forward to a relationship with one, it won't be so hard.

Friday night, my phone rang at 7:38 again.  Guy #1 is a man of habit, and always seems to call between 7:45-8:00pm every day.  He wanted to go out on Saturday when I really just needed a day to be on my own.  So, we chatted some more, and he told me more about his job, his life, his hobbies... all of which are very academic, very functional, very routine and very highly scheduled.  Throughout the conversation  I kept coming back to a worrisome idea...   Oh My God, I'm dating Sheldon Cooper.

Or, I guess now I should say I was.  I met him for lunch today, and ended our date by telling him that I didn't think we'd see each other anymore.  It seems I've learned something new about myself - apparently, I crave spontaneity and humour in my relationships.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Update on Cotton

I brought Cotton to a new vet today for a second opinion.  She read through his charts from our usual vet, and then asked me to leave him a few hours so that she could do a complete workup and x-rays.

Conclusion is that he does have an enlarged heart and severe murmur, but it is not bad enough to be causing all the hacking and coughing that he's been doing.  The heart is not putting pressure anywhere near his trachea  and there is no pulmonary edema, as previously assumed.   The x-rays show abnormal whiteness around the oesophagus and at the top of the heart that make her think that he is sick from a bronchial infection.  It's hard to tell that from x-rays of soft tissues, though, and she feels that somebody with more training should review them.  So, the x-rays have been sent to a radiologist for confirmation.  We should hear back next week.

He's still in early stages of heart troubles, and that will need to be treated.  However, if the coughing is a bronchial issue, such as allergies, this is something we can manage.

 ps - the vet expected our appointment to be a quick consult.  I think she booked 15-20 minutes with me.  In the end, she spent nearly 4 hours with either me or Cotton.  I left home for our appointment at 6, and we didn't leave her clinic until almost 10pm.  Pretty amazing, if you ask me, considering that she's never met me before today.

Dear Winter

Rather than coming into the room, turning left to circle the room by jumping from the chair to the dresser to the bookshelves (under the plants, over the printer and then through the used-to-be-organized-pile-of-paper) then launching yourself across the room onto my desk, it might be easier to turn right.  I'm right there, and you can hop on my lap.

Try it some time.  I think you'll like it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

General Thoughts

  • If you were like me - and since you're reading my blog I'm going to assume you are - most of your waking thoughts would be about your ailing dog.  You'd be worried that he's suffering, and also scared that his time would come too soon.  You'd tell your boss that you plan to completely lose all sense of dignity, stay home and weep for at least a week when it happens.  At the same time, you'd hope above all hope that there was a way to make him better. 

  • Along that lines, I made an appointment to get a second opinion with a new vet.  I've never seen this lady before, but I hear good things about her and would welcome a second opinion.  If she confirms what the first vet said, so be it.  At least I'll know for sure.

  • I went on a second date with the guy I wrote about earlier.  He's a nice guy, and he seems to like me.  He wants to go out again.  I haven't said yes, but I haven't said no.  He's just the kind of guy that I feel as though I should be looking for.  He's a "good" solid guy.  On paper, we have a lot of basic fundamentals in common.  Maybe too much.  I'm serious, a little shy and somewhat reserved.  He's serious, a little shy and somewhat reserved.  He worries about the environment (and lives accordingly), and believes in living within his means.  So do I.  Conversation flows easily, but it's serious.   He has not complimented me.  Nor has he touched me in anyway.  

  • On Thursday night, I'm going out to dinner with another guy.  He's pretty much the opposite.  Unlike the first guy who is an academic, this guy works in oil and gas.  He's talkative and open.  He likes video games and to tinker with all things mechanical.  He's from rural Manitoba.  (Maybe another generalization that requires a Canadian to understand.)  He already asked me to go to his company Christmas party with him... I declined.  He compliments me.  I don't agree with him, but he made me feel as though he was telling me the truth when he said he thinks I am pretty.  

  • Here's the thing: I want somebody who understands why I get so mad when I see big trucks idling in the parking lot.  I want somebody who will reach across the table and take my hand at a restaurant.  I want somebody who agrees that debt is bad, and who is willing to work with me to save towards my goal of retiring early and moving out to a little acreage and living in the boonies.  I want somebody to play scrabble with.  I want to belly laugh.  I don't know either guy well enough to say what they will and won't do, but going through the motions to get to know them is stressing me out.

  • If things progress to the point with either of them that they ever learn about this blog, I'm deleting this post.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

On the nutjob front...

... a guy contacted me through the dating site a week or so ago.  We chatted a little, but only on a very superficial level.  He said he wasn't comfortable talking online until he met me in person and asked right away if I'd meet him for coffee.  I thought it was a bit premature, and a little odd that he wasn't willing to exchange emails or chat first, so I put him off.  I was also legitimately busy through work, so made him wait until last night.

We didn't talk all week.  Honestly, I almost forgot about our coffee date, and then when I remembered I wondered if we were still on despite the silence... then I realized yesterday afternoon that I'd been eating dal for three days and probably smelled like curry.  Oops.

I told a friend where I was going, and off I went.  He was nice.  A little shy, I think, and quite soft spoken.  He's a prof at the local college, which is why he hadn't wanted to talk to me online until he saw me in person.  He was afraid of being punked by one of his students, which I'm not sure if that's happened before, or if he was just trying to prevent it.

Either way, it went well enough.  I didn't see stars or hear any bells ringing, but he seems like a good, solid guy.   90 minutes went by quickly enough.  It was nice to meet somebody who doesn't work in oil and gas, and who can't in any way be considered a red neck.  (I think you need to live in this area to understand that last statement.)  He asked if I'd go out with him again and I said yes but we didn't make any immediate plans.  I guess I'll have to wait and see if this goes anywhere.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I meant to...

...start posting more here again.

That's not going so well.  Things are not going so well.  The new job is OK (good).  Cotton is not.  His heart failure is progressing daily, and I will be surprised if he survives until the new year.  There have been many weepy days lately.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


There's a job that I've wanted for what seems like forever.  Truth is, I have felt as though this was, in large part, the job I was doing even before I moved into my current position; but the powers that be have always said it was not.    They have classified me at a lower level, which has always irked... not just that I have been paid for less, but more that I know I can do more.  I want my work to be the best of my abilities, and also I want it to be recognized as such.

For a while, I've been torn because of my classification.  I've known that my work exceeded my job description, and therefore the recognition that I got for it.  This bothered me.  I couldn't resign myself to only work at a lower level to match the classification, but have been unhappy not to be recognized for the quality of work that I do.   Although I enjoy my job and am extremely happy with the team I get to work with, there has been a distinct lack of job satisfaction as a result.

While I was in Italy, there was a posting for the job I wanted.  The job posting opened and closed while I was away.    Thankfully, my boss already had my resume, and added my name to the list of candidates.    A few days after being back from holidays, she informed me that I would be interviewed in two days' time.  She came to my house.  We sat at my dining room table.  I wore jeans because my old clothes don't fit, and I didn't have sufficient time to get anything new.  Our director called in and participated remotely.

We started off with a question that was intended to be light and fluffy.  I misinterpreted, and answered with something quite deep and profound.  There were technical questions that I could have answered better.  There was one question that I answered well enough that my boss wrote down my response in order to quote it later.  Somehow (I think) I managed not to babble, which is what I tend to do when I get nervous.  In closing, the director suggested that I consider working for another leg of her team, because she thought it was the sort of work I'd really quite enjoy, and also she thought the variety would do me good.  Considering that and the fact that there were 25 applicants, I wasn't very optimistic by the end.

Friday, I got the happy news that I got the job.  I haven't been able to say anything until today, when the announcement was made, but I've been wanting to jump for joy.  It'll be a challenge for sure.  While the work is with the same team, and there are many responsibilities that I am familiar with, I am a little worried now that there is so much for me to learn that maybe I don't even know what I don't know.  But,  I'll have a good coach in my boss and I'm looking forward to the challenge.  This is MY job; the one I have pictured myself in, almost before I started my current (old) position a few years ago.  I can hardly wait to get started.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Am a Farmer Now

I have a worm farm.  Yep, I've gone over the deep end.

My theory is that worm farming is the only sort of farming I can do without developing any sort of attachment to the livestock.

Also, their poop is worth its weight in gold.  And they eat garbage.

It seemed like a whole lotta gain for very little effort.  And so, I brought home a worm tower, and a container full of red wigglers.  They'll be living in the basement as soon as their bedding (some of which was outside in the compost bin) warms up.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

He's not really allowed to do this...

... but it's laundry day, so I let him.

Plus,  his moans, groans and grunts as he does it crack me up.  (You have to turn up to volume to hear them)

If anybody knows if he's doing this to pick up my scent, or if he's trying to claim my side of the bed as his own by rubbing his own scent all over it, please let me know.  It's something that I've been debating for quite a few years.

ps - pardon his eyes.  I was finally getting the weeping under control, but the new meds seem to have messed them up all over again.  The trade off is that they seem to be working, so I guess this is something we'll have to live with.

Friday, November 23, 2012


David is the reason why we went to Italy.  It's been on Ginny's bucket list to see him for most of her life.  He was pretty magnificent - Ginny gasped when she saw him for the first time.  We circled him many times to admire the artistry, and he's an amazing piece of work.  While I don't know that seeing him would have been worth the entire trip alone (don't get me wrong - the trip itself was fantastic) he was the the starting point.

Technically, David is in Florence, but we started to see bits of him in Venice, then Bologna, and then all over Florence.   More and more in each city.  Specifically, I'm talking about his penis.  It was everywhere.  There were aprons with it, tshirts, boxers, briefs and even panties with it strategically placed.  There were posters of it, and books.  There were even calendars that contained 12 pictures of it from various angles.

Frankly, I'm not sure that I understand the appeal.  There were statues of nude men all over the country, and I can't say that his junk stood out as being all that impressive.

I will say one thing for him, though:   David has a mighty fine ass.

No - I didn't take that picture.  I bought the postcard.
Frankly, if a poster had been available, I probably would have bought that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I had another post that I've been meaning to put up for a few days, but I can't get my scanner to work so it'll have to wait.  In the meantime, I'll tell you about Istanbul.

I haven't said much about Istanbul here, or anywhere else, really.  It's not that I didn't like it (I did - very much!);  I think I was in a state of system overload by the time I arrived there.  I think that maybe just observing and taking it all in was about all I could do.  Plus, my cousin (who lives there), as well as an uncle and another aunt (who arranged to visit at the same time as us) were there and we were busy having a mini family reunion.  Where I took 300-400 pictures a day in Italy, I probably took... 20 pictures in the four days in Istanbul.

My general impression of the city was good, but limited.  It's a huge city, spanning two continents and housing 15 million people, so I only saw a very small portion of it. 

From what I did see, I can tell you it's crowded.  We went down a few streets that were so packed full, it was like being in an overcrowded subway car, only everybody was walking this way and that.  And yet, at the same time, people were respectful.  While we'd had to be extra diligent to avoid pick pockets in Italy, theft was not a concern in Istanbul.  In fact, my uncle forgot his bag on a crowded boat, and when he went back later to get it, somebody was standing at the entrance, holding it and waiting for the owner to come back.  Nothing was missing inside, and according to my cousin, that is the norm.

One morning, Ginny and I got up early and were window shopping on the street near our hotel while we waited for my cousin to join us.  A shop keeper came outside and served us coffee.  We explained that we had no plans to buy from him, but he didn't seem to care.  Even then, when I said thank you but no (I don't drink coffee) he went to the back of the store and made me hot apple cider.

Food was delicious and fresh... and cheap.  Five of us could have a good meal for 40 Turkish Euro (about $25).  We frequently went somewhere to get a drink or snack and ended up eating a full meal.  Many days, we ended up eating 4 or 5 meals.  Most meals consisted of platters, with fresh cheese, eggs, tomatoes, cucumber and bread with fresh honey or homemade jam.  Fish is pretty common in Turkey, but I am severely allergic to it (to the point that I can't be near it).... when we did have meat, it was usually in the form of meatballs or kabobs, and only a very small portion of the meal.

There are cats everywhere.  So many, that after a while you barely notice them.  Walking down a street, you'll likely pass at least 4 or 5.   Turks don't have pet cats, but the community as a whole takes care of them.  Bowls of food and water are left out in front of many homes and shops.  The cats are stray, but most of them are very friendly.  Cats approach tourists on the street to be pet.  One cat, after getting a couple of scritches from us, jumped onto the table where we'd just been served breakfast on the patio.  (We lifted him down before he was shooed away.  Cats are tolerated there, but that may have been pushing his luck.)

The call to prayer is amazing to experience.  Five time a day, it is piped out over the city through the loud systems at the various mosques.  I was primarily in the tourist area of town, so I didn't see much of a reaction to it, but there was still something magical about hearing it overhead.

The weather is great.  It was ~25C and clear every day that we were there, which is pretty much normal.  As Canadians, we have a general expectation that when the weather is good, you have to go outside an enjoy it.  My cousin, who has lived there for three years, said she still has to squash that urge, because it's pretty much nice out every day.

Some random pictures...


Birds on a Wire (made me smile)

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque from another angle

These lights were everywhere. I so badly wanted to bring some home, but held my ground.  
Now I'm glad I did - not so sure they'd have gone with my decor.

Just beautiful.  The entire structure was tiled.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ikea, You're Messing With Me

I've had the same dishes for about 15 years.  They were cheap dishes that I picked up with the intension to replace them with something "nice" before long.  15 years ago.  While they do the job, they're oversized, and the colour/pattern hasn't ever gone with my decor.

A little over a year ago, I found some potential replacements at Ikea.  They maybe aren't the "good" dishes that I had in mind, but I like them.  They're a much better (smaller) size than the old ones, they don't have pattern that I'll get sick of, and the colours are perfect.  When I saw them, they were available in sets of 4.  There was blue, brown and cream... I wanted a set of each.  I've been mulling over them ever since.  Except, the last couple of times I went to Ikea, the blue dishes haven't been available in sets, only individually.   I was worried that they'd be discontinued and I'd lose my chance.

So, I decided to get them.  Then I promptly realized that the bowls in the brown set aren't quite the same shape as the bowls in the cream set or the individual blue ones.  I put the brown set back and bought individual brown dishes.  I then checked and double checked the bowls and the diameters of the plates to make sure they matched.  This was no small feat - Ikea has about 8 different but very similar shapes of solid coloured dishes, many in very close but not quite the same shades and tones.    There were three shades of brown, for the record.

To complicate matters, I realized that the cream set contained 6 of each dish (I only wanted 4).  The cream dishes were of course not available individually, and it was way cheaper to buy the set.  So, I came home with 4 blue, 4 brown and 6 cream plates and bowls, 4 each of pasta bowls, and 2 each of mugs.  (I don't generally drink hot drinks.)

Here's the problem: I obsess over details.  I'm pretty darned sure I have OCD.

So, two things:

I have 4 each of two colours of the plates and bowls, and 6 in another colour.  That bothers me, but I think I can get past it by hiding two each of the cream ones.

What I don't know if I can get past is this:


The bowls and the lunch plates match, but the dinner plates from the cream set are a different shape.

So, now I need to decide if I want to return them, let it drive me nuts or inquire about the appropriate medication to help me deal with things like this.  (I'm joking about the drugs... kind of.) 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Doorbell...

...won't stop ringing.  Every single day, somebody is at the door, asking me to sponsor them in a walkathon, donate bottles or purchase some sort of worthless crap.  It used to be bad, but it's gotten out of control.  So, I finally broke down and bought a "No Soliciting" sign.  I didn't want to do it - I don't want to deface my house with all sorts of signs - but it was becoming a problem.

If somebody wanted to mow my lawn, shovel my walk, pick up dog poop or do something useful in exchange for my money, I'd probably give them a chance.  But,

I've chosen and donated to my preferred charity.

I don't buy junk off of random salespeople

And, I'm sorry, but I don't feel any need to financially support your child's school, trip abroad or sports activities.  I know that children can be expensive, but I chose not to have children.  A large chunk of my property taxes go towards the local schools, so that's my contribution to the youth of society, as far as I'm concerned.  And it's a lot.

So, long story short, I broke down and got a No Soliciting sign.  I put it on the wall beside the front door, directly above the doorbell.

So, why is my doorbell still ringing every day???  I don't want to be rude, but lately I've been succumbing to opening the door, interrupting the sob stories and sales pitches by pointing to the sign and closing the door.

I know, I could not open the door at all, but the dogs get 30 seconds to go berserk when the doorbell rings.   It's not long, but it's enough to make it clear we're home... if they didn't already know because I work in a desk that's looking directly into the front window beside the door all day.  I would feel weird to sit there - know they know I'm there - and not respond.

I've decided that I need to get a front door intercom.  I don't need video, but I want to talk to people - tell them to go away - without opening the door.   I'm not sure where I'll get it (they don't seem to be very popular around here) I really need to get on that.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Venice B&B

Our first stop on the trip was Venice.  I don't think either of us knew what to expect, but it was pretty grand.  We arrived after 27 hours of travel for me (21 for Ginny).  After leaving the airport, we caught a water taxi to the San Marco square, and followed the directions to the bed and breakfast we'd chosen.

Keeping in mind that there aren't "roads" in this area, most of the streets are fairly narrow.  So, we walked down a narrow street until we came to the mosaic on the ground, and turned left down an even narrower alley with garbage piled beside some of the doors.  About half way down, we came to an iron gate and rang the bell.  We were buzzed in, climbed a flight of steps.  We weren't sure what to expect after this - I had fairly low expectations - but it was nice.  The place was newly renovated, much more modern than I'd expect and really quite comfortable.

If you ever find yourself in Venice, I'd recommend staying at the 3C B&B.

The street you start on to get there... took this picture on the last day.  
The 'table' on right is actually a raised walkway put together by workmen overnight, because of the flooding caused by high tide on the last day.

The narrow, a little bit eery (until you get used to it) alley you turn down

The iron gate where you get buzzed in.

I forgot to take a picture of the stairs.  

Awkward pics of the room.  There were so many details, I didn't know where to focus.

The little foyer at the entrance - washroom (which was fancier than any biffy I've ever had) was to the left.

Cool ceiling beams, exposed brick walls and concrete floor

Window - no screens in Italy, but there were shutters we could close to block out noise.  
We were only one story up, so we could lean over to see the activity below.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Ginny and I, who haven't seen each other for a few years, met in Toronto and flew together to Venice.  There, at the end of the first day, we changed into pjs and got ready to go to sleep.

That's when we discovered this:

We both have excellent taste in nail polish.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Getting Back into the Groove

I seem to have lost my blogging Mojo.  I'm having trouble thinking of what to say, and the ideas I do come up with don't seem worthy.  So, I've decided to post whatever comes to mind, in an effort to post more often and hopefully get back into the groove.

I didn't see many dogs in Italy.  From what I've heard, it's not all that common for people there to have them as pets; although it is becoming more popular.  Luckily, I didn't see many strays there either.  So, I was surprised to come upon two loose(ish) dogs in Florence.  I zeroed in right away on two labs who had been leashed together, as soon as we walked into the piazza.

They looked well fed, but there were no tags, and no apparent owner nearby.  I stopped and looked for quite a while, but I seemed to be the only one who showed any interest in them.  That upset me.  I'm the type of person to stops for loose dogs, looks for tags and tries to get them home; but there wasn't much I could do in Italy.  Even if I did know who to call, I didn't speak the language.    But, who would tie two dogs together and then abandon them???

I hesitantly left the dogs behind, and went with Ginny to get our gelato.  As we sat there having our treat, I looked across the piazza and saw the most wonderful thing... a group of apparent travellers and their dogs.  The labs very clearly belonged with them.   One lady in particular seemed to be their owner.  I don't know where she'd been, but she was back, and she clearly loved them.

At first I just watched, but when I saw the yellow lab jump up on the bench and slurp her from chin to forehead, then curl up in a ball beside her, I got out my telephoto lens and took some shots as I found spaces between the crowds.  None of these resonate with the pure devotion that I saw that day, but they do give a hint.

And this guy has his own suitcase, which he jumped into as soon as it was opened.

Funny - I didn't notice the graffiti at the time.  If I did, I didn't remember it.  I must have been too busy looking up and around at the amazing architecture.

And one final picture, which Ginny took...

It may not be apparently in this photo, but we were impressed with the serving sizes over there.    You pretty much got two scoops, whether you wanted them or not... we eventually stopped fighting it.  But, those bowls, which were fairly ubiquitous, were about 1/2 a cup in size, and were never packed full.  The scoops were each about half the size of what we'd expect if we bought an ice cream around here, but they were more than enough.  That might be yet another reason why we rarely, if ever, came upon an overweight Italian.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Somehow, Italy seems like more fun.

I've been home for about a week and a half now and things are getting back to normal.  I still have no sense of time, which is evidenced in my having missed putting out the garbage on garbage day twice now.  I've also been going to bed insanely early, and waking up about 4:00am, so for the last couple of days I've been relying on the caffeine in diet coke to keep me up past 9:00.

Alberta has been hit with a doozy of a snow storm. I've spent the week absolutely freezing, which I thought was psychosomatic because of the cold outside.  Last night, I remembered that I'd changed the batteries in the programable thermostat at 5:00am on Monday (when it's usually pretty cool in here).  I remembered being surprised that the temperature immediately showed as being 21C but I wasn't alert enough to think more of it.  So, after being freezing for a week, I finally caught on and reset the thermostat.  Right away, it showed that it was 17.5C  in here, not 21C as it'd said earlier and started warming up. It's good to know that I'm not losing my mind.

Back to the snow storm, I was supposed to go to Edmonton today but can't because of the snow.  Edmonton got 31cm in a day, and they're still digging out.  Around here, I think we got that much, but it was spread out over three days so that I had to shovel eight times... which is maybe a good thing because I can't jog in this weather and need to get my exercise somehow.   I'm also going to Zumba this afternoon - this time with shoes - and am not yet convinced that it won't kill me.  I'm pretty sure that my jeans feel tighter now than they did while I was on vacation.  Whodda thunk that I'd manage to spend three weeks in the land of pizza and pasta - lose weight while there - and then come home and pack on the pounds?

In other news, which isn't very good, I just came back from a vet appointment with Cotton.  He's been coughing a lot and losing weight.  He's had a heart murmur for a while now, but it looks like it's progressed to the beginnings of heart failure.  The vet hopes that, having caught it early, we can turn things around with the right medication.  I really hope she's right.

I promised Ginny that I'd keep a daily diary of our trip to Italy.  She did one too, and wants to combine them together.  I did well for a while, and then stopped writing sometime around Sorrento.  I really need to finish that up, and finish going through and cleaning up all the pictures I took.  Don't be surprised if I post after the fact entires about some of the places we visited.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I've been home for a couple of days.  What an amazing vacation.   The trip back was long, though - we got up at 3:00am in Istanbul, and 28 hours (three flights) later I arrived in Calgary.   I can't sleep in airplanes, so I got a hotel for the night in Calgary.  Even then, it was 2:00am before I got in and managed to catch about 4 hours sleep before my dad came to pick me up.

I'm not sure if I picked up a flu bug or if it was a mistake to brush my teeth using tap water in Turkey, but whatever it is hit me during a layover in Paris.   I haven't managed to kick it yet.  Nosebleeds started yesterday, I assume from the dry air after being spoiled with the humidity over there.

I went to bed at 2:30pm on the day I got home, and slept until 4:00am.  Yesterday, I slept through Halloween (poo!) when I went to bed at 5:30 and slept 12 hours.  I'm trying to stay up until 9 tonight, in an effort to get back to a normal schedule.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day...I'm not sure

Trip continues to be great.  Internet access hasn't.  We went to Capri, and then Positano/Amalfi from Sorrento.  Loved it.  Took loads of photos, but it was so bright and the movement of the boat while touring around Capri made it hard to take pictures.  At first look, it seems as though I have 300 crap shots, but hopefully I can fiddle with them when I get home.

We left Italy yesterday, and are now in Istanbul.  It's like a completely different world.  It's the second biggest city in the world, and as busy as you'd expect.  We spent the day on both the Asian and European sides, wandering amongst the crowds and hearing the calls to prayers at the various mosques,  It almost felt like we went from restaurant to restaurant, tasting various dishes as we went.  The food here is amazing - all local and super fresh, and mostly fruit/veggie based. I didn't take many pictures, though...  I felt so stunned that I could only take it all in or take pictures, not both.  Maybe tomorrow I'll get the camera out and take some shots.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day 11 - Cassino - Sorrento

We got up in the morning, ate our prepackaged crescents and were eager to move on.  Nobody was there for us to check out, so we slid the payment for the night under the office door, left the key in our room and went out to wait for the taxi that we hoped the lady we'd talked to the day before had called for us. (We heard her make a call, but since we didn't understand it, couldn't be 100% sure that's what she'd done.)

At 9:00, when we expected the taxi, the black beetle that the lady had driven the day before drove up the hill.  This time, a man got out of it... I'm assuming it's her husband.  He also spoke some French, and he explained to me that he was going to take us to the cemetery.   I guess he felt bad for the mixup of the day before?  Not sure, but either way, it was nice.  He drove us to the cemetery, spoke with the gardeners to find Uncle Dick's grave, and then stood over near his car to give us as much privacy as we wanted.  When we were done, he drove us to the train station.

The cemetery is immaculate, and that says a lot.  Italy is beautiful, but it's rustic.  There's very little perfection here.    Buildings are old and have cracks, gardens have weeds.  Here in the cemetary, though, everything is kept pristine. It shows all kinds of respect.

After the cemetery, we went to the train station and killed a few hours with our ereaders in the cafe next door.  Our train came after lunch, and then we were in Napoli.... a place I've heard nothing good about, and I am not ashamed to say that I was afraid.  I've heard non-stop about pickpockets, thieves and small children to pull out guns and take everything you've got. (Seriously - I took the USB containing all of my photos out of my bag and hid it insidemy bra.  I figured that my clothes and camera could be replaced, but I didn't want to lose all the pictures.)  Happily, while I still have no desire to spend any extended time there, we had no problems.  We got off our train, went directly downstairs to the Napoli subway and got on it (with a million other people - this was the first time we've been packed in like sardines on trains) to go to Sorrento.

Sorrento is lovely.  More so, our B&B is incredible.     We really lucked out with this one.   It's outside of town, but the owner shuttles us back and forth as needed.  We have a room with a balcony that overlooks Mount Vesuvius, with the Naples Bay to one side and Sorrento to the other.    The owner, who is quite a character, has warned us that he charges 5 euros every time we look at the view.  It's on the honor system, and we're to report in before we leave.

This is, hands down, the nicest place we've stayed.  The owner has thought of everything that we could possibly need, and (except for the view) everything is included in the price of the stay.    The owner is a tall, dark drink of Italian water.  He's very suave, and a big flirt.  I'm sure he must get hit on by so many of the women who stay here, because it took him approximately 30 seconds after we met before he let us know that he's married.  Good for him - he is no doubt an excellent business man.  It's good to know he's a dedicated husband too.

Anyway - got here just after dinner.  I can hardly wait until morning to see the view in daylight.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 10 - Florence - Cassino

We headed off on our detour to Cassino to see the grave where our Uncle Dick was buried, during the WWII.  I can't say this has been the best day we've had in Italy.

As the train pulled up in Florence, a number of people gathered near the doors to hop on, and when it was our turn, the lady in front of Ginny (who looked really quite normal) turned around and helped her to lift her suitcase up the two steps onto the train.  Then, when it was my turn, the guy -who was clearly with the lady-grabbed my suitcase and popped it up the two stairs.  We didn't think anything of it - it's something we'd happily do for fellow travelers - but they followed us to our seats and then demanded payment.  We begrudgingly gave them a euro each, but they seemed to think that 5 euros each was more appropriate.  We had to tell them no quite firmly before they'd go away.  ... Lesson learned, I guess.  I'd heard that you shouldn't accept help at the train stations, but I thought that applied to buying tickets, etc.

After we got to Rome, we had a few hours to kill, and with very few places to sit around the station, we decided to head over to the McDonald's across the street.  I immediately got into the line for the loo, only to to discover that it was a unisex bathroom, with only one functioning toilet.  In addition to what I'm discovering is the norm around here for public toilets (there is no seat on it and no TP available), this one also had the distinction of being the dirtiest toilet I've encountered on this trip - and that says a lot.  Thankfully, my hovering skills are getting pretty darned good - and I've learned not to go anywhere without a wad of TP or a couple of napkins in my pocket.  I've got to say, though, that even having gotten that over with, we didn't stay long.  It was the dirtiest McDonald's that I've ever seen, and we were pestered by beggars every minute or so.  If that is any indication of what Rome is like, I'm glad we decided to limit our visit to the duration of the train transfer.

We arrived in Cassino about 2:00.  Although we're here to see the cemetery  in Cassino,the B&B is in Mont Cassino, which is up a very steep hill or small mountain.   A taxi driver arrived before too long and we hopped in.  Right away, when we told him where we were going, he tried to suggest another hotel.  Over and over, he tried to direct us elsewhere, but I thought he'd get some sort of kickback for referrals and said no.  I said we had a reservation and said we only wanted to go to that one B&B   I regretted that a lot once we arrived.

The front desk was empty when we went in, and the place was super-quiet, like it had been deserted.  we called out, walked around a bit, then waited for a while with no luck.  Finally, when we were starting to have visions of dragging our luggage back down the hill, we heard a child laughing and followed the noise.   There was a man there with his kids, and we asked him for help.  He didn't speak any English, but thank God he spoke French.  It wasn't easy, (I haven't really spoken French for almost 20 years) but I managed to stumble my way through.  He told me that the place was closed, and that the administrators wouldn't be around until tomorrow.  Sonofabitch.

We went back and forth a few times - it turns out that he lives there with about 15 others who rent rooms as apartments.  It's only the unrented suites that are used for the B&B.  Finally, after much discussion (he couldn't seem to grasp that we didn't have a phone) he called the owner for us, and she showed up after about half an hour.  No apology was given.  She didn't speak English either, but seemed to understand limited French.  She didn't believe that we had a reservation, and kept flipping around her blank calendar to prove it, until we showed her a copy of our confirmation email.  With her speaking Italian and me speaking my broken French, we managed to work out which room we would get, got her to call for a taxi to pick us up the next morning at 9 and then she left.

We had no phone, no internet (or so little internet that it wasn't worth trying) and nothing really to do way up on top of this mountain.  It was a nice change after all the crowds, but it was also a bit of a shock.  And, truth be told, the place kind of gave me the creeps.  It seemed like the Italian version of the Bates Motel.  Nothing seemed to work; the bulbs in all the lights were broken or missing, it was eerily quiet and it was dirty.  I wasn't very happy.... I tried  to think positive, by focusing on the view and quiet, but that took a while before helping me to reign in the crank.

The guy we'd encountered earlier told us about a restaurant that was a reasonable walking distance and price, so we went for a bit of a walk and then headed over there.  The food was actually really good, and since this was the first menu we've seen that was entirely Italian, a bit of a guessing game.  The bread that they served at the start of dinner was probably the best we've had so far, and we followed that by calzones.  I thought mine was going to have a bunch of peppers and some mushrooms, but I ended up getting 3-4 cheeses with a spicing salami -definitely not what I expected, but it was good.  Sometime down the road, I might try to recreate it.

After dinner, we walked our way back up the hill and settled in for the night.  Ginny took the separate room, and I took the cot in the living room.  Frankly, I felt as though I was being watched the entire time (even with the blinds closed) so I couldn't decide if I wanted the lights on - it seemed too creepy to turn them off - or if darkness would make it harder for anybody to watch me.  I ended up opting for dark, but got next to no sleep.  I wasn't sad to leave in the morning at all.

Having said all that, it's hard to justify bitching while in Italy, so I'll post some pictures I took.  The view really was pretty.

I took these pictures the next morning:

... speaking of the morning... this is what we found in the shower.

Day 9 - Florence Gardens

We slept in today, and then headed off to see the Gardens.  As usual, we wandered around until we found a shop with breakfast that called our names.  Usually, we get a couple of pastries to go, which generally cost about 1,20 Euros.  Today, after walking through a few pastry shops and not seeing anything that made us want to stop, we made the mistake of going to a pastry shop right on the (naked man) piazza.  We ordered our pastries, and sat down instead of getting them to go.  Then, instead of our usual bottled water that we've been picking up at grocery stores as we reach each city, Ginny ordered cappuccino, and I got hot chocolate.

The first surprise was the hot chocolate, which came in a cappuccino sized cup and was as thick and black as tar.  It tasted like drinking a cup of hot Nestles Quick.   The next surprise was the bill - 30 Euros for breakfast!!  Whoops.

After that shock, we decided to keep on a reasonable budget for the rest of the day, and walked over to the gardens.  They were nothing like we expected (very few flowers) but the greenery was pretty and the view was amazing (again).

I decided to use the opportunity to play with my camera, and tried to get some shots that said "Italy" to me.  I took over 300 shots - some of which are unquestionably junk - but got a few good ones.  I haven't had a chance to go through them all, and these are SOOC, but here are a few.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day 8 - David

Today was the day that we went to see David, so any activities outside of that were largely unplanned.  I think we were both surprised at how fast it was for us to get in to see David.  We had tickets for 9:45, but were told to be there by 9:30.  I think we got there at 9:00.  They let us right in right away - absolutely no line.  

David is...  I don't know how to describe him... David.  Amazing.  Breathtaking. Almost human.  All of the above.  Many people broke down in tears at the sight of him, and understandably so.

Once we got out, it was only 11, so we decided to head over to an indoor food market.  We made a number of stops along the way and the day turned into a shopping day.  My parents had gave me some Euros as an early Christmas present and told me to get some boots/shoes or a bag, so that's what we did.

My first purchase actually started before we saw David.  On the way there, I saw a store that seemed to have nice shoes and bags in it.  When I looked into the door, a little old Italian man came out and pointed at me.  "Boots for you!" he said.  I didn't need to say much, just go into the store and he started pulling out boots.  I'd shake my head or nod, depending on what he showed me (all within a matter of seconds) and right away he zeroed in on some boots that I really liked.  He called me over to the back so that I could try them on, but I said I was about to go see David, and didn't want to buy anything right that moment.  "Ok" he says "Come back later".

As I walked back towards the door, I noticed another pair that I liked, only the heels were too high.  I asked if he had anything like that with lower heels - "Not in Italy" he says "Come back later".  Then Ginny, who was looking for a pair of shoes, commented about a pair that she liked.  "Come back later" he said, and pushed us out the door.  I laughed so hard, I almost had to sit down,  I guess he's not willing to give us his attention or allow us in the store when we're not ready to buy.

I've kept my eyes peeled since we got here, and these boots seemed to be the ones I like best, so we went back after we saw David.  "You - Boots!" he yelled when we walked in, and then he beetled off to the back where he had a pair in my size, waiting to be tried on.  Ginny also bought some new shoes.   We managed to avoid buying a scarf he was foisting on every female who entered the place, and then we were off.

I ended up buying some pashminas for gifts (and a couple for myself).  Then, even though I had bought some boots with the money my parents gave me, I ended up finding a bag I liked, so I guess I  bought an early Christmas gift for myself too.

On the way back, we decided to stop for a drink at a restaurant in the piazza where Neptune, the copy of David, and a bunch of other statues are. (We've been calling this piazza the one with the naked men.... which we've actually shortened to 'the naked men',  It's near our hotel, so we generally pass by and stop at the naked men a few times a day.)  It was hot, so we decided to try limoncello, which we thought would be like a lemonade.   It turns out that it's not.  It's a shot, and it is vile.  Nasty, nasty stuff.

Later that night, we went back to the same restaurant to sit on the patio beside the naked men and enjoy a dinner under the stars.  Somebody on the other side of the piazza was playing the guitar, and it was really quite beautiful.  The only negative was a guy who was peddling crappy plastic rockets that glow in the dark.  He kept coming up to us to sell them, and wouldn't go away when we said no.  The first few times, we were fairly polite, but we got less patient as he kept coming back and interrupting our dinner.  The last time he bugged us, I said no sharply, and when he continued to stare at us, I told him to go away.  He seemed to understand, and took off right away.  Except a couple of minutes later, I caught sight of somebody coming up behind me and I thought it was the vendor again.  I was *this close* to telling him to f#ck off before I caught myself - I think the Fuc... was out before I bit it back.  We laughed and laughed about that... I sure hope the waiter understood what happened, or I may have tarnished the Canadian reputation.

One more day left in Florence.  We're going to head over to the Palazzo Pitti and the Giardino Di Bobboli (gardens) tomorrow, and maybe the Galileo museum.  As impressive as they are, the churches and the renaissance art is starting to blend together, so we figured we''d try something new.

Gelato flavour of the day - Ginny had black cherry.  I managed to go a day without gelato.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 6 - Bologna to Florence

We caught the high speed train out of Bologna today, and headed over to Florence.  This city seems to have all the ambiance that Bologna was missing... amazing architecture, narrow roads, piazzas all over the place and public art.

We started our Florence visit by promptly getting turned around and getting thoroughly lost.  We walked past the Duomo Cathedral 3 times before we figured out where to go, and had to walk past it again to get to the hotel when we did figure it out.  It took us about  an hour and a half to go what I now realize should have taken about 20 minutes, but that's OK.  It seems that getting lost is part of getting to know a city.

And, the Duomo is worth circling a few times.  It's as big as at least a city block, and made entirely of different colours of marble.  The intricate carving on it is just incredible... I think the book we have says that it took 200 years to finish building.

Our hotel room is much different from the first two.  Where they were modern and slick, this was is quite traditional, with yellow walls and carved wooden headboards.  It's also got a bathroom door that sticks so badly that we've agreed that we'll be peeing with the door open throughout our stay.

At the advice of the owner, we caught a cab up to the Plazzale  Michelangiolo (the hill on the opposite side of the river), and the view was breathtaking.  We wandered around there for a while, grabbed a quick lunch and then walked through a massive grave yard with the most ornamental headstones I've ever seen, before walking down the hill and back to the hotel... passing mind boggling-ly amazing architecture along the way.

We walked 23000 steps, and our feet were pretty sore.

Dinner was a roasted vegetable soup, followed by Caprese salad.   Gelato flavour of the day was coconut.

Observations about the city:
everybody smokes
Italians in general seem to all be at a very healthy weight
the sidewalks are extremely narrow, and the roads even more so
there appears to be a shortage of fig leaves