Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Welcome to Jukebox Wednesday!

Young(ish) & Restless & Bored - Bob Seger, Night Moves

Monday, July 28, 2008

Some good news

Yay! They were able to remove Brad's mom's ventilator today. She breathing on her own and is once again able to communicate! Very good news for everyone. Her illness has been tough on the whole family, but this will make things easier. Brad's sis from Ontario has decided to stay the week - she was scheduled to go back home tomorrow, but she's not ready to leave just yet. Two of Brad's sisters and his father were here again for supper tonight. Leftover beef stew from last night and some fresh bean salad that Brad made. I sliced up some tomatoes over which I chopped some fresh basil and crumbled some feta and drizzled some olive oil. Raspberry pie again for dessert. No complaints, in any case.

A couple more pics from Italia and I'll call it a day:

An impromptu wine tasting at a small little winery we were passing by. We drove in and found no one at home, but Gianni had been stalking us and arrived just a few minutes after we did. He was a very nice fellow and each couple bought 3 bottles of wine from him, a table wine, a little more expensive blend, and a super tuscan.

More Gianni

Wine aging in barrels - somewhere in Chianti (Rada maybe)

The symbol of Chianti Classico - Mmmm... I loves me some black cock! ;-)

You loves you some black what? Yeah, yeah, Okay. They call it a rooster! Salute!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Positive thoughts

So Brad's mom is doing quite a bit better today. So far so good. She still has a long way to go, but she had a good night last night and is stable today. They should know by tomorrow if the connection is good and they should also able to remove the ventilator. That will make her much more comfortable.

Brad's sis from Ontario came down and she stayed with us last night. It's great to see her, despite the circumstances. She'll probably stay with us again tonight.

And as I write this, there is stew beef simmering in our slow cooker downstairs. Brad's sister is coming over and is going to make a stew for the whole family for dinner tonight. Since we definitely don't eat beef, Brad and I will have our usual baked salmon supper. I made a raspberry pie yesterday that we'll all have for dessert.

I got another quart off my backyard patch (that makes a total of 5!) and I also hit the local u-pick yesterday and quickly picked another 4 quarts. I could have stayed there all day, but had many others things on my plate yesterday. I hope to get back and pick another 4 quarts to freeze before the season is over.

Gotta run... Keep your fingers crossed for Brad's mom!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

And so...

Brad's mom... Something went wrong with her small intestine. A loop, an appendage, an adherence... something wrapped around her small intestine cutting off circulation, which, of course, is not good. She has muscular dystrophy and celiac disease to start with and is very thin and frail as a result. So far, she has had two operations, one on Friday and another today. Thankfully, they were able to reattach the two sections of her small intestine after excising a portion yesterday. The very difficult part is that she is on a ventilator and cannot comunicate. The breathing tube is very uncomfortable and is driving her crazy. Hopefully they will be able to remove that tomorrow. She is a very sweet woman who has treated me as a son. I love her dearly. She is mentally very strong and tenacious. I am convinced she will pull through this.

To ward off all bad vibes and send out some very positive vibrations, here is Brenda Fassie from South Africa:


Friday, July 25, 2008

Lean on Me

Brad's mom is very suddenly very sick.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bits and Bites

Just a quick post to keep you abreast... Ha! It's funny... Speaking of breasts... Georges and Barb were down the other night to drop off their key so that Brad could go to their place the next day to let their dog out as they were both going to be out of town. Brad and I had just finished hauling some remaining wood in from the garage down to the basement to make room for the 3 cord we have coming. We were all hot and sweaty and needed a break, so we offered G and B some cherry crostata and a glass a wine on the newly painted deck. At one point, Brad to told Barb that she had a mosquito on her breast! "Did you just say what I thought you said?" I quipped. I mean really, for a gay boy, he's got nerve! He was going to shew it away, but thought better of that!

Biked my 21 km after work today. Was the first time I've biked since Saturday and it was painful... Even in the basement, it was humid. The weather here has been hot, muggy, and very humid most of the week. There was a thunderstorm as I was waiting for my bus this morning. I don't mind the heat, but the humidity is a killer. I walked home from the bus stop tonight after work (about 15 minutes) and was completely drenched in sweat when I arrived - and that was before I biked my 21 km in 45 minutes! Thank god for central air! I would be extremely cranky if we didn't have that.

While picking my raspberries this year, I noticed that we had another bird's nest in the patch. Last year, we had seen this small yellow bird flitting in and out in the early summer, and when Brad investigated, he found a nest with 2 or 3 eggs in it. He forebade me to pick until the birds had left the nest, which really wasn't a problem because they were gone before the season really started. Earlier this year, I saw another yellow bird flitting around a bit, but not to the same extent as last year. Perhaps this year no eggs were laid, who knows? In any case, it surely has to be the same bird who returned to the same spot in the same backyard after spending the winter in Florida or some other warmer climb. Either that or one of the offspring that was hatched there. I find that quite amazing. Me who gets turned around crossing the street, let alone a continent!

I'm reading a great book right now: Living in a Foreign Language by Michael Tucker (you know, the nice guy character on L.A. Law). It's about him and his wife Jill (who also played his wife on L.A. Law, buying and renovating a rustico (cottage ) in Umbria, Italy. The book was a Christmas gift for Brad, but I am reading it first (though he has started it after hearing me laugh out loud while reading it). It's very well written, and Michael and I have a lot in common - he, too, likes to cook and eat well and drink good wine, and we all love Italy. It's a great book that I highly recommend for anyone who likes food, travel, and Italy or just a good read.

A few more pics:

Our villa from a distance - Hi Mar!

Looking up onto the loggia

Part of the herb garden - the hedges on the bottom are rosemary!

More grounds - I loved the wrap-around hedge here

The loggia, complete with fig tree and hammock


Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Some quick pics to show you what we've been up to:

Our newly painted deck two nights ago just after our neighbours left

Ditto, but with more feeling!

Plan "B", the sunporch, had it been raining

What Brad made last night - cherry crostata, we haven't tasted it yet, it's for dessert tonight

My bliss in the summer - freshly picked raspberries (from our own backyard!)

Before and After

Jasper ensuring the backyard is squirrel-free prior to our neighbours' arrival

My berry patch, or part of it anyway (4 quarts and counting so far!)

View from the deck

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More Fun in Italia

So where were we in Italy? Oh, yeah, still at the villa... Our week there passed all too quickly. We kind of fell into a routine that developed around the weather. The mornings seemed to be sunny and warm, but most afternoons the clouds would roll in for a while and sometimes it would rain. It usually cleared by evening, though, so we were able to sit out on the loggia and talk the night away. Hence, we usually ended up spending the mornings at the villa, having a leisurely breakfast and then a quick dip in the pool followed by some sunbathing. Tough life, eh.

Usually, we'd have lunch and maybe a shower before taking off in the cars to investigate some of the hill towns in the vicinity. We went into nearby Certaldo quite often - to pick up some groceries or hit a banking machine. The town was easy enough to get into, but we had a devil of a time finding our way out! There were a couple of one way streets that seemed to throw us everytime!

We also went to San Gimignano and Volterra, both tony little towns. In San Gimigano, I bought a beautiful ceramic mug and a few bottles of wine, including a couple of bottles of a great Brunello and a Vin Santo. We downed one of the bottles of the Brunello on our last evening at the villa and I brought one home with me. Maybe we'll drink it at Christmas or New Years. It was also in San Gimignano that Don had a raspberry/rosemary gelato, that I am still kicking myself for not having tried. It was one of the best, according to Don.

The day we were in Volterra was also Mary's birthday so I picked up a couple of alabaster candle holders as a present. (Volterra is famous for its alabaster.) I think Mary was wondering why no one has wished her a happy birthday the whole day, but we saved up our wishes for after dinner, having bought a Sacher tort at the Coop in Poggi Bonsi for dessert (we ate out at a nearby restaurant that evening called Da Vilma). It was a great meal, except for the fact that Shaun got his main about 15 to 20 minutes after everyone else. I waited for about 10 minutes, and then said 'the heck with it,' and dug in. Both Brad and I had Baccalà that night, which is a salt cod dish served in a tasty tomato and garlic sauce. It was really delicious. Surprising, Brad had very few problems with his stomach in Italy - I think we'll have to move there...

Here are some more pics:

The pool by night

The view from our room (Merchant/Ivory eat your heart out!)

Looking out from our room

Lunchtime in Volterra

Surely Michelangelo looked something like this

We climbed a LOT of stairs in Italy, including these in Volterra

Shaun holding up a 2000-year-old Etruscan gate

The fortress in Volterra

Don enjoying the pool (Hey, this belongs in Skinny Saturday!)

For some reason, Mary and Shaun found it very hard to unwind at the villa...

Skinny Saturday 19

We went out for drinks with Shaun and Mary last night. Don and Mar couldn't make it unfortunately. And Shaun and Mary had some exciting news for us, too. Looks like they are going to be grandparents!! One of their daughters who got married last year is expecting their first child in January! Congrats again, you guys! Sheesh, it's hard to believe - we're going to be friends with grandparents! ;-)

Just finished my 21 km on the stationary. It's overcast and humid here today, and I'm hoping it will clear up, especially for tomorrow when we are having 5 of our neighbours over in the evening for dessert and drinks. I made a raspberry pie this morning using a few frozen ones from last year, but mostly with berries that I picked a couple of days ago in our own patch in the backyard. It's a productive year for that little patch! I think Brad is going to make a cherry crostata (an Italian tart - his first attempt at it), so we'll have lots to offer tomorrow evening. It would be nice to be able to sit outside on our freshly painted deck, but if it is damp, we'll come inside and sit out in our sunporch. Today, we're giving the inside of the house a thorough cleaning, as we've really let things slide this past week when we've been working on the deck... And both dogs, of course, are shedding like there is no tomorrow.

The deck is basically finished except for a final coat on the floor. It rained yesterday afternoon and evening and it is still damp, so we won't be able to do anything out there today (thankfully!).

Well, I gotta run and have some lunch and then start cleaning the house (sinks, kitchen floor, and bathrooms - Brad has already vacuumed). Anybody out there have a maid? I mean someone who comes in like once a week or so and does some cleaning? I definitely think it would be worth the money.

De todas maneras... los hombres:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Slap it!

LOL... This takes me back - to 2nd to 3rd year university... Early 1980s in any case...

Bette Davis Eyes

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Where ya been?

I've been meaning to post this for a while now and haven't got a whole lot else right now, so I thought I would take the plunge. It's a map of where I've travelled. Not all that impressive, I guess - only 12 countries, but we've been to Switzerland, Italy, and the UK several times... Hmmm... where next?

create your own visited country map
or check our Venice travel guide

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


So it started with the deck, scraping it as you might recall. That was finally finished on the weekend (No thanks to me, according to Brad! Yes, you might detect a whiff of domestic discord there, but we've worked through that, literally!). On Monday night, we cleaned up the basement. Ours is an unfinished space (rock wall foundation, cement floor) that we have used over the years to store a lot of junk and clutter, unused Christmas gifts and the like (honestly, does ANYONE actually use an electric plate warmer??). It also doubles as my dungeon, where the main torture implement is the stationary bike. In any case, it was in need of a major clean up, and we took at least 6 or 7 garbage bags out to the garage awaiting Friday's pick-up.

When that stuff is gone, we have to start cleaning up the garage. We've ordered 3 cord of wood, you see, and hope to be able to stack most of it in the garage, away from the elements. Initially, we were only going to get 1 cord, but the person we're buying it from mostly sells it in 3-cord loads, and charges a lot more to deliver just 1 cord.

Last night, we primed the deck, well, the railing portion of it, anyway. Tonight will be the real paint, and hopefully we'll get most of the railing done. Then will come the floor portion... With any luck, we'll be finished with the deck by this weekend (when we HAVE to have a few neighbours over to prove that we have not turned completely anti-social.).

And all the while, I should be picking raspberries (Yes, it's raspberry season here!!), watching Coronation Street, or Big Brother... I actually caught Brad watching BB last night! A show he claims to detest! I hope this version is better that the one they had on during the winter. All of those housemates were despicable and even I couldn't bring myself to watch it.

Have a good Wednesday!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Snap out of it! :-)

"You know, I will never forget it... I was in bed last night with my boyfriend Ernie. He said to me, 'Soph, Soph, you've got no tits and a tight box...' I said to him, 'Ernie. Get off my back!'"

Pizza Party... In Italy

We ended up eating quite often at our villa in Tuscany. Shaun makes a mean pizza dough, so after we finally found some yeast (we came back with baking power once, mistaking it for yeast), one evening we had a pizza party. Man, it was good. Extra onions chopped up on the side for them that wanted, and a portion made quite plain for our Bradley... Seems that everything tasted better in Italy. The tomatoes were better, the olive oil, the herbs snipped just minutes before use, and the provolone - Oh my god, the provolone! All washed down with some good red wine... Mmmm...

And as I type this, Brad is making strawberry jam downstairs... Is there anything that smells better than strawberries being boiled for jam?

My current desktop background

Maria adds the toppings

The finished product - we had two of these, made using the bottom part of broiler pans for pizza plates

Maria be careful how you slice it!

The Thinker

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Skinny Saturday 18

It's going to be a beautiful day here - sunny and warm with little humidity. A great day to finish scraping and hopefully primeing the deck. Ugh... Got up early and went to the market with Brad. He seldom goes, but he wanted to get quite a few boxes of strawberries for making jam, so he went as well. Like idiots, we bought them first, placing them in a wooden flat we had taken with us, and then walked around to the other vendors. I ended up spilling close to half a box on the ground. (Note to self: next time either buy the berries last or else take them back to the car immediately after purchase and then return to the market.)

Et voilà, les bô mecs de samedi (I think this one should really be called Beefy Saturday, but we'll stick with tradition!):

Friday, July 11, 2008


Sorry I haven't posted much (read: anything) since Monday, but it's been a very busy week and Brad has been on the computer working most evenings. Not a whole lot new to report in any case. I forewent (is that the right word? the past of forego?) drinks out tonight, since Don and Mar couldn't make it and Brad is having dinner with his parents. I'm going to try to make it to the farmers' market tomorrow (hopefully with Shaun!).

Thankfully, it's been a relatively quite week with respect to mom. She went to her Dr. again on Tuesday and he poked and prodded some more, but in the end (ha!) didn't find anything amiss, so hopefully she'll be satisfied for a while. Will take her supplies down tomorrow or Sunday.

I have been quite busy at work this week as my translator was on vacation and I was holding the fort myself. Of course, a fairly long technical medical report came in this morning that they wanted for Monday. I conquered most of it today and will be able to finish it for the requested deadline. It's tough going when you have to look up almost every other term. Thank god for Google! I really don't know how we translated without it! (And by that I mean guessing at the terminology and Googling it, NOT using a translation program.)

As I was working away this afternoon, I was listening to a radio station out of Moscow. I used to listen to it a lot before we went to Russia in 2006, but I haven't listened to it much lately at all (I switched to Italian stations in the winter). In any case, there was a good jazz/blues program playing this afternoon and here are a couple of songs that they played.

Tom Waits - Waltzing Matilda

Leonard Cohen - Tower of Song

Have a good weekend and check back tomorrow for the boyz!

Monday, July 07, 2008

At the Villa

Oh, my aching muscles... We spent a lot of yesterday scrapping our deck in preparation for repainting it. It's been on our list for a while now and this weekend we finally made a start. We've got about half of it done. It's tedious work and you use muscles you normally don't, so there are a lot of aches and pains, not to mention blisters. Plus it was VERY hot here on the weekend, but I'm certainly not complaining about that. Thankfully, we have central air conditioning, so we're staying fairly cool inside.

We had a nice afternoon/evening at my nephew's place on Saturday. It was great to see them and their kids. Brad showed his slides from Nepal later in the evening, and the strawberry/rhubarb pie was a hit.

Thought I would continue a bit further on our Italian journey... Fasten your seatbelts! We took the Metro from the apartment to Rome Termini station and caught an early Inter-City train to Florence. It was a pleasant hour and a half or so speeding through the Italian countryside, which was dotted with scores of ruby red poppies. We arrived at the Santa Maria Novella station in Florence and walked to the car rental agency, some of us huffing and puffing with our luggage (that would be me). The whole process of picking up the cars went very smoothly, and in fact we were upgraded to two very spacious sedans (we had reserved two compacts). Since neither Brad or I drive standard (manual shift) cars, Mary and Don were the designated drivers for the duration. They both did admirably - after they figured out where reverse was! Turns out you had to pull up a little knob on the gearshift in order to get to reverse - something the boyz at the agency neglected to tell us.

We followed the directions provided to get out of the city and onto the highway. Brad went with Shaun and Mary and, I travelled with Don and Mar. I tried to be helpful and point the way several times, but Marlene would have none of it! No backseat driving in that car! Of course, Mar was sitting in the front and had a much better view of the roadsigns than I did hunkered down in the back. I quickly accepted the fact that if they were determined to get us lost, there would be little I could do about it! LOL... I say that with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I have ABSOLUTELY no sense of direction and Mar has an amazing set of eyes for catching signs. I settled back for the ride and soon we were zooming down the highway and passing Team No. 2 on the way to Siena, which was our first stop, as Brad had rented a bike there.

Amazingly, we found the bike place on the outskirts of the beautiful hill town without a hitch. The shop was open, the bike was there and in good repair, and after rearranging some luggage and taking the front wheel off the bike, into the trunk it went and we drove the short distance to a parking garage where we left the cars and walked into the old town of Siena. (Here I have to admit that my bladder and I took advantage of the deserted, underground car park, a strategically parked SUV, and a conveniently located drain, and answered nature's call. The first of um - several - such occurrences. Better safe than sorry, I say, and who knew there was a washroom just at the other end of the garage?!)

We had lunch and gelato in Siena and walked around the stunningly beautiful city. We then hopped back in the cars and made our way to Poggi Bonsi, where we would stock up on groceries for a few days and call the caretaker to arrange a time to meet at the villa. The Coop in Poggi Bonsi is a story for another day - oh boy, is it ever! :-) For now, suffice to say that it was very, VERY busy. It was closing for two days, you see, to mark the Italian National holiday on June 2. In any case, Brad contacted Norma, the caretaker and one of our infamous maids, and we arranged to meet at the villa at 5:30. Norma speaks no English, so Brad's and my extremely rudimentary Italian came in quite handy by times.

We found the villa without a problem and Norma was waiting for us when we arrived. She was very pleasant and showed us all around, chatting away and pointing things out to us in Italian, about three-quarters of which Brad and I understood. She gave us some coffee, some canned tomatoes, some garlic, a baguette, and a bottle of wine. She left us the keys and said she would return in 2 days - she didn't work on Sundays, and Monday was the Holiday. All of our cares immediately vanished when we were left on our own at this beautiful property tucked into the hills and vineyards of Tuscany. The Internet did not lie. The place was exactly as pictured - even better in fact. The large kitchen, the dining room, the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the garden, the landscaping, the loggia, and the pool... All were perfect. After a very long day of travelling and new experiences, we found ourselves in heaven...

The main piazza in Siena - Il Campo.


Our Home Sweet Home in Tuscany

Don and Mar were happy and Mary wasted no time in soaking up the view

The ginormous loggia equipped with table and chairs and extremely comfortable hammock

The infinity pool

Another pool shot

Our first meal at the villa, pasta with arrabiata sauce and salad