Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

We spent Christmas Eve on Vancouver Island with my brothers and their families. It was really nice that we could all be together to catch up and exchange gifts. Not to mention to totally spoil the niece! Little bugger's growing at an insane rate and giggles if you so much as look at her. That's a pic of Aurora and Aunt Tiffany.
The monkey and I spent Christmas day together and were going to cook a ham, but were so full of all the crap we'd munched on by noon that we decided to have it Boxing Day. That worked out well and I like the different set of leftovers we can make with ham. Quiche, pea soup, ham and eggs are a nice change from turkey sandwiches and turkey soup.

I've basically spent the last week watching dvds, reading and knitting on the couch. I may have to have my butt sugically removed from it by tomorrow afternoon. My jammies and I are very good friends. I've relegated real clothes (you know anything that involves underwear and socks) to just for dog walks and company. I'm starting to understand the appeal of hermitry.
I have removed a couple of knitting projects from my stash. That's a Jean Wong design hat and a pair of cabled wristlets. They're sitting on my weeklong knitting indulgence, Noro Kochoran hoodie. Mindless, pretty, soft and warm, exactly what I want my comfy couch holiday knitting to be. I won't have it done tonight, but it's pretty close.

The travelogue continues in Barcelona! This was the second day of our cruise and the first stop. We'd had enough of bus tours and decided to just wander around shopping and site-seeing. That's a pic of the Olympic rings in the main harbour. We wandered along the shore and then up the main drag which consisted of two lanes each way with a large boulevard up the middle which was full of little kiosks selling everything from handcrafts to chipmunks. Yeah, I said chipmunks. We stood in front of that kiosk pondering for quite a while!
We found a large open air produce market as well. The monkey and I always wind up in grocery stores and public markets whenever we travel. We find the coolest stuff in them and local produce in foreign countries is so cool. We bought some clementines (I really wish they imported them out here) and dried fruit and really amazing handmade chocolates. People were wonderfully patient with my rudimentary spanish.
We only had a few hours on shore and decided to ride the elevator up the statue in the main square before we went back to the boat. This is the view of the street I just described from the top of the statue:

And yes, I am completely aware of the monkey's obsession with climbing things. At least this one had an elevator!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Crap! I'm old.

I remember when I was in my last year of high school doing the mental math to see how old I'd be in 2000 and thinking, "damn, I'll be really old." I also remember how ancient I thought my dad was on his 40th birthday. Sorry dad, I was 15, what can I say? If it's any consolation, it seems that the older I get, the less ancient you seem to be to me.
So I turned 40 yesterday. I'm having a little trouble with this. I mean, I still get IDed on a fairly regular basis and the ladies at Safeway still call me "miss", so WTF? Oh well, I guess I'll get used to it in time to turn 50. I refuse to even discuss that inevitability. Lalalalalalalalala I can't hear you!
But, dispite the number, it was a really good birthday. I was taken out for delicious meals, given yarn, sent flowers and just generally spoilt rotten. I loved it. Today is a bit sucky. What with the having to make my own food and all.
These are flowers my dad sent:

Aren't they pretty? And those are pussywillows! How cool is that? Thanks dad!
And my SP sent me a birthday parcel too. It's all made locally in her area. There's a very pretty tealight holder (that will be very handy when our power goes out again), some yummy apricot jam, chocolate dipped orange rind, some jasmine soap, and chocolate crackling elves. The elves are chocolate filled with pop rocks. They amuse me no end. Must find more, everyone I know needs to have some of these. If you can eat them without grinning, there's something wrong with you.
Thanks for the super pressie SP! You have excellent timing.

The travelogue continues with our short stop in Pisa before we boarded the cruise ship. We only had 45minutes in Pisa and sadly, it wasn't long enough for us to go up the leaning tower. But we walked around it and the Duomo and Baptistry as well. When you round the stone wall that surrounds Pisa this is what you see:

It's incredibly beautiful. I was really surprised at the size of the tower. I had always thought it was huge, but as you can see, it's not that tall. Still impressive and will last now that they've reinforced and shored it up. Hopefully we'll make it back there to climb the tower someday.
That was our last day in Italy and I have a fun fact: apparently, you cannot buy Dante in italian in Italy. I went in almost every bookstore we found and no go. We found Dante in spanish, german and english, but no italian. Figure that one out.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


The third stop on our trip was Sienna. This was easily one of my favorite places. It's a small medieval town completely surrounded by a large stone wall. Cars are not allowed in Sienna unless you live there and have permission, so the bus dropped us of outside the wall and we walked down through the curved streets to the main square.
The central square slopes down to a castle and is shaped liked a scallop shell. Twice a year horses are raced around the outside of the square bareback. Since the rules are fairly vague, the jockeys are allowed to push each other and often fall off their mounts. Ergo, the first horse across the finish line wins the race, whether he still has a rider or not!
The streets form circles around the square and it's pretty easy to get lost. To preserve the feel of Sienna, all wiring has been run underground, so it still looks mostly as it did hundreds of years ago. We cimbed the bell tower (400 odd steps, the monkey is a bit of a sadist) and had an amazing view of the surrounding countryside.
I found a wool shop in Sienna! Italian yarns at at amazing prices. Pretty sure I peed a little. The poor man running the shop must have thought I was mad. Trying to ask for certain colours in my very stilted Italian and probably looking very much like I'd gone rabid. The monkey couldn't wipe the grin off my face for the rest of the day. The other ladies on the tour were showing off the lovely designer scarves and bags they'd purchased and I would proudly hold open my bag of yarn for them to see. Yup, lots of people think I'm crazy. I've learned to live with it.

And just so no one thinks it's all about the holiday and there's no fibre content any more:

FOs! Bday present socks for a friend and a scarf for SIL. It's okay, both pressies are not surprises.

Since it's the season for gifts and sometimes they're kinda interesting, I give you a short meme:
1) the oddest gift you have ever received (not asked for): bright yellow lacey lingerie from my parents
2) the oddest gift you ever asked for: a large chunk of exotic hardwood and fret wire
3) the oddest gift you ever gave: adult diapers
4) the worst gift you ever got: gift card for a video store we don't have in our area

In case the meme failed to bring a smile, I give you this list on friendship that SIL sent me. I was going to forward it on to my email list, but I thought I'd share it with everyone here instead. Enjoy!
1. When you are sad -- I will help you get drunk and plot revenge against the sorry bastard who made you sad!
2. When you are blue -- I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you!
3. When you smile -- I will know you finally got some!
4. When you are scared -- I will rag on you about it every chance I get.
5. When you are worried -- I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining.
6. When you are confused -- I will use little words.
7. When you are sick -- Stay the hell away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have.
8. When you fall -- I will point and laugh at your clumsy ass!  (I thought you were dancing!)
9. This is my oath..... I pledge it to the end. "Why?" you may ask; "because you are my friend".
Remember... A good friend will help you move... A REALLY good friend will help you move a body... Let me know if you ever need me to bring a shovel.

Friendship is like peeing in your pants, everyone can see it, but only you can feel the true warmth!

Friday, December 08, 2006


Day 2 The Vatican
The Vatican is an entity unto itself. It's really a separate country within the city of Rome. It has it's own police, work force and postal system. Regular Romans must get permission to spend any length of time there. It is completely surrounded by a huge wall with video surveillance. We had a tour guide for the morning and I really wish that we had just gone through the museum on our own. It's vast and I don't think we saw more than a tenth of it. We literally raced through beautiful statues, maps and tapestries. I have quite a few blurred photos of the fabulous ceilings throughout the maze of corridors that leads to the Sistine Chapel.
We were able to spend a little bit of time in the Sistine Chapel and what struck me first was how very small it is. I always pictured it as this huge space with an incredibly ornate ceiling, but it's tiny. The ceiling is amazing and with the recent restoration, the bright colors are almost overwhelming. We were hustled out of there and on to St Peter's. I was struck by the overwhelming display of art and wealth. I'm still not sure what to make of it. The only thing that really felt like it belonged there was the Pieta.
We decided to climb to the top of the cupola in St Peter's. After another stimulating round of "try to find the helpful Italian" (45 minutes that took!), we get in the line to climb the 300 and some odd stairs. Now. You can take an elevator to the base of the dome and then climb, or you can take the stairs. We're stupid. We took the stairs. Please keep in mind that the 340 stairs are just the ones in the cupola. They don't actually tell you how many stairs there are to get up to the cupola. I lost count. We'll just leave it at lots. So by the time we get to the base of the dome, we feel like death on a plate. We take a small breather and then forge on to the dome. The dome is two layers., the inner one with the frescoes that you can see from the inside of the cathedral and the outer one that you can see from almost everywhere in Rome. The stairs wind their way up between the two layers. The distance between the layers gets smaller as you go up. A lot smaller. You cannot change your mind. You have to go up one side and down the other. This is not a good place for anyone with even mild claustrophobia. But, we made it and here's the view of the square from the top of the dome:

See those dark metal things on the side of the dome? Those are candle holders. At some point in history some poor schmuck had to climb out there put candles on those things! Talk about your bad jobs.
We left the Vatican in the early afternoon after visiting the grotto that holds the tombs of past popes. A very strange and beautiful place.
We crossed the Tiber to find food and wound up having pizza in a little outdoor cafe. Took another crazy roman cab back to the hotel so we could crash before setting off for Sienna the next day.

Meanwhile, back in the here and now, the monkey and I have caved and put up a tree. Neither of us was feeling very Christmasy and there was nowhere to put the presents. So voila, tree!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Things we learned while abroad Pt1

We're back! Believe it or not, it was really great to finally be home. We had a very interesting and mostly fun trip, but in the end, there's no place like home. Even if you have to come home from the Bahamas to a foot of snow and below freezing temperatures.
These next few posts are gonna be huge and I don't want to send everyone into mini comas, so I'm going to break up the pics into sections and do it over three or four posts. Nobody wants to see 400 pics of places they aren't familiar with, so I'm just going to pick a few of my faves and hope you like them too.
I'll start in Rome, where finally landed after 36 hours of travelling to discover that our room wasn't ready and we had to sit through an hour of tour orientation. Keep in mind, we haven't slept, we've have had very little to eat and what we did have was plane food. All we wanted to do was grab some food, shower and collapse on nearest flat surface. So instead, we sit through orientation that once again makes me understand the importance of the two week waiting period to get a handgun. When it's over I ask the ladies running the tour if we have a room yet. Nope. No room. And strangely now we can't find our luggage. When we ask where it is, they tell us that it's in our room. We tell them that's great and ask for the keys to our room. They tell us we don't have a room yet. I won't go on here as this conversation went on like this for about 5 minutes and I couldn't find a handy brick to bonk myself over the head with anywhere. It felt like the Italian version of Who's on First. The monkey finally gave up on the tour ladies and talked to the front desk and got us a room key. Guess what awaited us in room. No really, guess. NOTHING! No bags. At this point even the charming even-tempered monkey is cursing. He goes back down to the lobby (pretty sure he was afraid I still had enough strength to commit grievous bodily harm upon the tour guides) and finds our luggage in a hallway at the back of the hotel. I think the tour guide told him it wasn't ready yet. How he managed not to slap her by this point is beyond me.
Day 1, Ancient Rome
Now when we booked this tour they listed off all the things we would see in each place. What they neglected to tell us is that they really mean "see". We drove past them at 60k in a bus. A bus that I managed to throw up in for about 30 minutes, missing part of the tour. The monkey and I are not totally old yet and in reasonable physical condition, so we spent our free time really exploring and going into the places that we'd passed by on the bus. We walked all around the People's Square, the Forum, Pantheon and the Coliseum. It was great. Rome is very interesting as all of the ancient buildings are in the midst of a large and fairly modern city. The size of the old temples was awesome. Incredible to think that they were built with no machines. Everything was stone and brick overlayed with marble and beautifully carved.

We took a cab back to the hotel that night because we so tired and it was a very Roman experience. Roman streets are very narrow and the cars are very small, but there's tons of them. Almost all the cars have scrapes along the sides and numerous dents. We found out why. Italians are insane. Our cabbie had a smoke in one hand and his cell in the other, he passed stopped traffic by driving down the centre line into oncoming traffic and would turn around to say apparently hilarious things to us in rapid fire Italian at about 100k. We managed to catch the words "Mario Andretti" and "Ferrarri". It sounds scary but it was actually fun and really gave a bit of a feel for the city.

And Jen, you're the winner of the blog contest. Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of yarn from Florence, rum from St Maaten, olive oil from Sienna, sugar from Guadeloupe, a leather bracelet from Tenerife, a key chain from the Bahamas and a lovely Costa cruise lines floaty ship pen. Contact me through my hotmail address so I can send you your loot.

Any guesses as to what this sock represents? If you said the amount of knitting I did in the past three weeks, you're right. Sad isn't it. But I read 5 books. Do I get any points for that?