Saturday, June 28, 2008

Heinz Deli Mayo Ad

Mark was mentioning this ad on his blog and the fact that Heinz has decided to pull it off the air. Too bad. It's a good ad. Heinz should have stuck with it and not given in to bullying. Check it out:

Skinny Saturday 16

And another weekend rolls around again. Happy Pride to those who are celebrating it this weekend! We went out for drinks after work yesterday with Don and Mar. It was good to see them - was the first time we've reconnected since returning from Italy.

I got up bright and early this morning and went to the market. I was going to meet Shaun and his brother there around 7:00, but I only arrived around 7:15 and must have missed them. I bought fresh basil, beet greens, green onions, a potted basil plant, and 2 quarts of local strawberries - YAY!! I'll be making pesto and strawberry/rhubarb pie either today or tomorrow, depending on when I go down to mom's.

Mom has been driving me crazy this week as she is totally obsessing about her bowel movements again. She's been to see a doctor twice in as many weeks and she fell during her last visit as she was trying to get up on the table. Sigh... It is extremely frustrating because there is absolutely nothing wrong with her bowels, but she refuses to believe that and she's determined to have an x-ray and/or a barium enema, both of which will probably do her more harm than good. Her sister in Ontario died while we were in Italy - three weeks to the day after being diagnosed with leukemia. I think that has hit mom hard and this is how it is manifesting. Oy. It ain't easy to be old.

In other news, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's final between Spain and Germany. I predict Germany will win 3-2.

The weather here this week has sucked, rainy and cloudy and cool. I've been keeping an eye on the weather in Tuscany (just out of curiosity), and it has been sunny and really hot there most of the week (34 C). Whoever was at "our" villa this week really lucked out.

In any case... Here are the boyz of Skinny Saturday:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

De retour

Hey all. Finally getting around to doing a quick post. This has been a very busy and hectic week. We had a super time in Montréal. We flew to Halifax first and then on to Montréal. It was a nice, new Air Canada jet and one of the flight attendants was really old school (definitely not the norm for Air Canada!). I asked for one of those small bottles of red wine that you get on planes, but all she had was a big bottle. She said she'd look for a small one, but in the end there was none on board. So she opened the large bottle and poured me two glasses from it. I was prepared to pay for it - had my money in hand actually - but she just set the glasses down on my tray and said enjoy. A few minutes later as she was walking by - she looked at Brad sitting beside me and said with a smile, "What? Do you one one, too? Is that why you're looking at me like that?" Brad said, "Well, if you're offering..." So she poured him a free glass of wine as well and before you knew it, we were gliding our way into the big city.

Maurice picked us up at the airport and drove us to our hotel downtown. We stayed at the TravelLodge, which is a modest, but very clean and reasonably priced spot on René Levesque. After checking in, Brad and I went out for an evening of fun and frivolity on our own.

On Monday, after a very late night, we availed ourselves of the free continental breakfast at the hotel (great croissants!) and then walked down to Le Vieux (Old Montréal). We had lunch at a super spot, Marché de la Villette. The waiter was incredibly friendly and efficient, greeting each new person with a warm, "Bonjour!" and chatting with everyone as he weaved his way among the tables. I departed from my usual quasi-vegetarian ways and had a delicious ham crepe and Brad had a nice tuna sandwich in a baguette. After lunch, we took the Metro out to Westmount, where another friend lives, and I hit my cookbook shop, Bon Appetit. It's a great store run by a very sexy owner who also does cooking classes in the evenings. But alas, with a bank account dwindling from two weeks of eating and drinking my way through Italy, I left empty-handed. Actually, I was saving up for a purchase at our next stop, Senteurs de Provence. Usually, I use only unsented soap at home, but this place carries some great soaps that are all vegetable based and very subtly scented. I got 6 Verveine bars, which has a light hint of lemon, and 3 Santal (sandalwood) bars for about $50. That will keep me going for a while. The bar I was really looking for (Carotte, which I had purchased on a previous jaunt) was out of stock, so the owner gave me her card and told me to e-mail her later on if I still wanted some and she would mail it to me. We then hooked up with Lynn, our Westmount boy, at Patisserie de Gascogne, which is, in my humble opinion, one of the best pastry shops in the city. I had a - okay, okay, so I had two! - chocolatines and a delicious hot chocolate (I know, it's June, but I couldn't resist!). Brad and I then headed over to Maurice's place, a terrific apartment that he just moved into in April, where we shared a bottle of wine and caught up a bit before meeting Lynn again, this time for dinner, at O Thym, a wonderful, bring-your-own-wine restaurant on Maisonneuve Est. I highly recommend this place. I started with the Poêlée de petoncles avec salsa de mangues et chayottes (seared scallops with mango and chayote squash salsa) - They were heaven-sent! Brad and I both had the poisson du jour, which was a grilled swordfish - equally divine! I ended with a cheese plate, which I was unable to finish as I was so stuffed. Three bottles of wine and lots of laughs later we made our way down to the Gay Village and Maurice and Brad and I went to see the boyz at Campus. Lynn was tired (and respectable) and headed home. It was another fairly late night without a lot of sleep, but hey, we were only there for three nights and had to make the most of our stay!

The next morning we again had breakfast at the hotel and then headed up to the Plateau neighbourhood of Montréal. It was June 24, St. Jean Baptiste Day, a holiday in Québec. A lot of the small shops were open as were all of the restaurants. We didn't come across much of the celebrations, parades and whatnot, and it seemed like a fairly low-key holiday this year. We had a delicious lunch at a small bakery on the Plateau, La Première Moisson, where I had a very tasty hot salmon croissant and Brad had a Brie and tomato sandwich and a raspberry tart. Later on, we made our way back to Westmount and hooked up with Lynn for drinks at Mess Hall.

My sister called us as we were having lunch and said that she and her husband had arrived in Montréal (they are driving back to Edmonton after a visit home) and would be able to join us for dinner. I had made a reservation at spiffy Chez l'Épicier in Old Montréal for that evening, but I had only made it for two people. Since the restaurant was closed basically until our 6:30 slot, we crossed our fingers that they would be able to accommodate the four of us. Thankfully, they were able to. And they gave us the best table in the room to boot, right by the front window, We had a fantastic meal there. I started with a glass of white port and the special app of the day, a succulent piece of red snapper served with baby vegetables and an unusual, but to-die-for vanilla sauce - clever chef, rich, sweet, and savoury all in one bite! I then had the halibut steak, also yummy, and the homemade sorbets & ice creams for dessert - only the pistachio ice cream disappointed. This is a great space, the service immpecable, and the food delicious. Again, I highly recommend it, but be forewarned, it is on the pricy side - our meal came to just over $450 for the four of us, two bottles of wine and other libations included.

After the memorable meal, my sister and brother-in-law walked back to our hotel with us and then caught a cab out to the airport Hilton where they were staying. Brad met up with Maurice and the two of them went out for a drink. This time, it was me who was too tired and I opted to stay at the hotel and turn in early. We had a 05:45 wake-up call the next morning in order to get out to the airport for our 8:00 a.m. return flight home.

It was a quick, but very fun and enjoyable trip to one of our favourite Canadian cities. It was great to catch up and reconnect with both Maurice and Lynn. Brad and I agreed that we have to make a habit of visiting Montréal more often.

In the last few days, we've also been watching lots of soccer from Europe. A lot of great, nail-biting matches! Unfortunately, our favourites (Italy) were knocked out on Sunday, and now we're down to the final on Sunday between Spain and Germany. Hard to say who will win that one, but if I were a betting man (HA!), I'd lay money on Michael Ballack and Germany...

Oy... Time to wrap up this not so quick post. So with the thought of laying money on Ballack (ahem), I bid you good night!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Skinny Saturday 15

Well, another week has come and gone. This was my first full week back at work and it was long. I'm glad the weekend is finally here. We went out last night for drinks with Shaun and Mary (Don and Mar unfortunately couldn't make it). Was good to see them again post-Italy. We shared our memories and had some good laughs. Later on, George and Barb dropped by our place with a bottle of wine and we gave them the low-down on the trip. Was great to see them, too.

I was going to go to the farmers' market this morning, but couldn't drag myself out of bed early enough to get there before all the basil was gone, so I skipped it. Shaun and I have vowed to start going again on a regular basis next week.

Tomorrow, we go to Montréal for 3 nights! YAY! We normally wouldn't go away again so soon after a big trip, but we are in a situation where we have to use these tickets or lose them. We were supposed to go to Montréal last July on aeroplan tickets, but we had to cancel that trip as my mother was just getting out after almost 2 weeks in the hospital and I had to be around. When you cancel such tickets, you pay a fee and you have to use them within one year, hence our quick jaunt to the big city. We're looking forward to visiting with Maurice and seeing his new digs. We hope to see another friend who also lives in the city, but we are having a difficult time connecting with him - we've been playing phone tag for a month now! And we definitely didn't plan it that way, but we'll be in Montréal for St. Jean Baptiste day (June 24), which is a big holiday in Québec. And we'll definitely have to make time to go to the peelers! Montréal is famous for it's hunky male strippers! Hope you're ready boyz!

And speaking of boyz, I give you Skinny Saturday 15:

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Time for a bit more on our trip... After a very smooth flight over the Atlantic, we arrived in Gatwick at about 9:30 a.m. British time. After clearing Customs, we walked around the airport and grabbed some coffee and danishes. As we had lots of time to make our B.A. connection to Rome, we browsed in some of the airport shops. I bought some magazines (estate listings that we would all later drool over while sunbathing at the villa). Gradually we were making our way to the north terminal to find our gate to leave for Rome. All of a sudden an alarm goes off and we are told over the P.A. system that a fire alarm had been triggered and EVERYONE had to vacate the airport. Argh! Can you imagine! We followed the general crowd - slowly - and went down to the main floor. Sortly after we got down there, thankfully, the alarm was cancelled, and we made our way back to the north termninal and our gate. We were only about a half hour to 45 minutes late taking off as a result and we made up time in the air, so we landed in Rome around the scheduled arrival time of 5:30 p.m. We breezed through Customs again and waited for our bags. They all arrived fairly quickly - all except for one green duffle bag, that is - Shaun's. We waited, and waited and waited, but still no sign of the Shaun's bag. Finally Brad found the desk where you report lost luggage and we made a claim. Somewhat tired and deflated, we called the contact who would meet us at our apartment to let us in and give us the key. We agreed to meet him at 9:00 p.m., which seemed a bit late for us. In any case, we gathered up our stuff and made our way to the Metro station. Brad is an amazing navigator and map-reader. He led on and we followed, each of us buying a 3-day pass for the Roman Metro. We got off just a couple of minutes from our apartment and found it in no time. We called Tim again, the contact person, and told him we had arrived. He showed up not long afterwards.

He let us into the residential/office building and he and Mary and I and quite a bit of the luggage went up to the 5th floor in the tiny elevator. The others walked up. He opened the door to our apartment, and we were well pleased. A large foyer and hall, a huge terrace, a very large livingroom/dining room also with balcony, a decent kitchen, 2 bathrooms each with shower, and a largish bedroom, a small bedroom, and a very small bedroom. Don and Mar got the largish bedroom, Brad and I got the small room, and Shaun and Mary holed up in the very small bedroom. It really all worked out, as we were only in the bedrooms to sleep anyway.

That first night, we had dinner in a trattoria just around the corner from our building (you could see it from our balcony, actually), and we bought some wine at a very friendly neighbourhood store. A mom and pop operation, with junior still working there as well. They were super friendly and nice. We went back several times over the 3 days to stock up on wine and beer.

Across the street from the apartment was an outdoor market that stretched 7 or 8 blocks. Vendors sold everything from pasteries to wild boar, eels to flower arrangements. We ended up buying bread, vegetables, cheese and wine there and dining at our apartment several times for for breakfast and lunch, and for one dinner.

Here are a few more pics of the apartment:

The terrace was amazing. We had several good meals out there and lots of good times.

Brad cutting bread in the kitchen

The Spanish Steps. A famous gathering spot in Rome for many, many years. The Spanish Embassy is or used to be located nearby, I think.

PS: Shaun's piece of luggage was delivered to our apartment shortly after 1:00 p.m. the next day. It was probably at the airport all along and had just not been off-loaded from the plane or had fallen off the conveyor. Luckily, that was our one and only glitch with air travel.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another Soccer Moment

And another Italian! Antonio Cassano:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No. 13

Here is one of the fellas I'd most like to see doff his Jersey and shorts after (or before) a game. Germany's Michael Ballack. Heiss!

Pesto Recipe & Soccer

Hey all... Been lazy the last couple of days. Well, lazy and BUSY - on Sunday, anyway. I made a red miso dressing (for salads or drizzling), a rhubarb crisp, a yummy lentil salad with sun-dried tomatoes, and GI muffins. I'll post all of the recipes eventually, but for now, I want to give you my pesto recipe:

2 large bunches of fresh basil, preferably organic.
3 tablespoons pinenuts, toasted in a dry frying pan
2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup + olive oil
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Rinse the basil leaves in a colander and pat dry using paper towels or a clean dishtowel. Add a portion of basil leaves to food processor or blender along with some of the pinenuts, garlic, parmesan, and olive oil. Process until smooth, and repeat until you've used all of the ingredients. Pour/scrape pesto into a sealable plastic container and mix in lemon juice (from about half a lemon - this prevents the pesto from turing black with oxidation and keeps it nice and green). Mix well and stir in a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste - and voilà, summer on your counter! Store for up to a week in the fridge. Serve on hot pasta, with mussels, or in sandwiches.

After I finish, I take the blender container, a spoon, and Jasper out on the deck. I dig out and eat the remaining dribs and draps with the spoon, then I slop up as much as I can in my right hand, which Jasper then licks off. This was a habit I started with Samson and one that Jasper is happy to contiune. Normally, this would be a perk reserved for top dog Kaiser, but in this respect, Kaiser takes after his other daddy and spurns fresh garlic.

I've been watching a bit of Euro 2008. So many hunky players! Here is one of my favourites thus far, Fabbio Grosso from Italy!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Skinny Saturday 14

Phew! Been a very busy day here. We both got up very early (6:30) to go to our farmers' market - me for fresh, local, organic basil and Brad for tomato plants. I lucked out, Brad didn't. It was the first basil of the season (YAY!!), but the tomato plants were too small for Brad's liking (he wants some potted ones that are already quite big for our deck). After that, I went to the grocery store for mom's stuff and then came home and biked my 21 km in the basement. Then Brad went for our groceries and I showered and had lunch and then drove the half hour down to mom's. She liked the cashmere scarf I bought for her in Florence. We had a good visit and I drove home again and picked up more stuff that I had forgotten to put on our grocery list. Our good friend and former neighbour, Jessica, came over for a Corona on the deck (it was sunny and warm here), for a bit this afternoon and then I made PESTO for supper. OMG. I could live on pesto alone! It is absolutely my favourite savory food. I'll post my recipe tomorrow.

Since I didn't lose all the weight I had wanted to before our trip to Italy, I am thankful that I put on only 1 pound while were were there, which is amazing considering what we ate and drank! I swam everyday in the pool and we did a lot of walking, so I guess that balanced things out.

En tout cas, without further ado... the boyz of Skinny Saturday 14:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

From Night to Day

Oy. Another day in at work. So far, I've only worked a day and a half this week, but I will be really glad tomorrow at 4:30. There's always that awkward readjustment stage when you've been gone for 2 weeks or more. "They want what, when?" "Can you do this for tomorrow?" "This program isn't working as it should!" "I'm sorry, what was your name? - Did you just start working here?" "Are you really talking to me?"

Who needs it, I say? It's time for a first dip in the pool. For a beer under the loggia. For a glass of wine and some good cheese. Hell, I'd even rather be in a car in a funeral procession in the countryside, which is where we ended up on one damp Italian afternoon. (Picture it: Spitting rain at the end of a long day of driving and visiting Tuscan hill towns - San Gimignano and Volterra - a cop was diverting traffic for the funeral and we thought it was a detour because of an accident on the road ahead or something. Who knew? Apparently, I seemed a little annoyed ;-)

Here are some pics of Rome in daylight. Waaaaa.. I wanna go back!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

To sleep, perchance to dream...

Still kind of tired from the trip - travelling west from Europe to North America is always harder than going from here to Europe... I went into work this afternoon. For the life of me, I couldn't remember my password for my computer. I ended up trying so many combinations, I locked myself out and had to get Helpdesk to come down and straighten things out, so it was like 3:00 p.m. before I was able to log on. And when I did, I had over 100 spam messages in my e-mail account. I had missed an upgrade (or rather, the upgrade didn't take effect until I had restarted my computer), so I had to go through the tedious process of separating all of those from my legit e-mails and then deleting them.

It's good to be back and to see our pooches. We missed them terribly while away. But I think 3/4's of me is still in Italy. And that's a good thing. It's so great to get away from the routine of everyday life. To see new things and gain perspective. Gradually, imperceptibly, I'll seep back into the reality of the here and now, but until then, I plan to bask in the afterglow.

Here are a few nighttime shots from the terrace of our apartment in Roma:

Home Again, Home Again...

Hi all. Just a quick post to let you know that we made it back safe and sound! Italia was a most excellent adventure, from the large terrace at our apartment in Roma with a spectacular view of St. Peter's Dome to the Tuscan villa that was everything we hoped for and more, to the day trip to Cinque Terre and nights in Firenze and Pisa. And I had forgotten how incredibly sexy Italians are - most of them are stunningly beautiful. Our day in London was great, too (sunny and 27 C) where we saw a play at the Gielgud Theatre starring Ralph Fiennes.

Much more later with lots of pics. Right now, I have to get back on the stationary and bike, and bike, and bike! And then back to work this afternoon... Oh well, I feel rested, relaxed, and reenergized.

More soon!