Saturday, December 20, 2008

Making a couple of Christmas projects

I'd planned to write about these projects before Christmas, but I didn't want to ruin any Christmas surprises. What's a blogger to do? Also, by the time I had a moment to write about the gift bags and the cookbooks, I realized that a) few people were reading my blog during holiday festivities and b) even if someone did read it and was inspired by one of the projects, that someone wouldn't have time to whip up either project since it was already Christmas Eve. Oops.

So, I'm telling you about these projects on December 30, but I'm changing the official date of the post to December 20, just in case I'm looking for holiday ideas next year.

First up: cloth gift bags. I made five this year, and I plan to make more next year because they are so easy and practical. I sewed the bags from simple squares of fabric, and I finished them with yarn draw strings and cute buttons. My mom made a bunch of these bags out of festive fabrics many years ago, and they are still in rotation. Wrapping gifts with cloth bags is so simple, and the recipient still gets the pleasure of unwrapping something, without all the garbage.

I like using fabic that isn't holiday-specific because then the bags can be used year-round. The fabric I used was intended for a log cabin pillow, but it was the only thing I had on hand. I'll be making a trip to the quilting store in the near future to replenish my supply. For real, this time.

The second holiday project that you should know about is this cute little cookbook initiated by my buddy Sarah. I was one of four contributors, and I'm so happy I stayed the course and typed up some of my favourite wintery recipes. I'll post a couple of those recipes in the new year, but I also have some extra books, so let me know if you'd like a copy.

Keep weathering the winter weather, friends!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays

This is our seventh annual Christmas card. Phew. You can see the previous cards here and here. We didn't get too creative this year because there was no need; this picture does the work for us. If you weren't following our trip in August, you can read about our stay in Paris (including the segway tour) here.

I hope you all enjoy some festivities over the next couple of weeks. I also hope you find some relaxing moments along the way.

If you have some time on your hands, there are a couple of new posts over at Things Worth Making, and I plan to write about a couple of (modest) Christmas projects next week.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Making black bottom cupcakes

Oops. I forgot to tell you that I made cupcakes for one of my many work-related holiday parties. Icing cupcakes didn't appeal to me (iced cupcakes being hard to transport in bulk quantities), so I opted for black bottom cupcakes. The cream cheese topping serves as a built-in icing, so nobody suffered.

This type of cupcake was one of my sister's favourite comfort foods when we lived at home, and for good reason. They're sweet, but not too sweet, and they're good cold or warmed up (the chocolate chips in the cream cheese topping melt when you warm them up).

I got my recipe out of the Joy of Cooking, which is where I believe my mom found the recipe way back when. If you want to follow our lead, Culinate posted the recipe just for you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Room with a view

This is the view from my new office. I have an office. Sure, I share it with another person, but still. It has a door that closes. And windows. With a lovely view.

The other thing to note in this photo is that there is snow on the ground. Even though some of it melted today, I hear we'll be getting more tonight. I love the snow, but this cold snap is a little much. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

Making hot toddies

If you're as cold as I am, you should do yourself a favour and make yourself a hot toddy. These instructions also apply if you're sick or if you don't want to get sick. Basically, everyone should drink a hot toddy right now.

I've tried a few hot toddy recipes that vary widely (sort of like sangria recipes), but in the end my mom knows how to make them best, and now you know too!

Combine the following ingredients in your favorite mug and drink up:
- juice from half a lemon
- a heaping teaspoon of honey
- a shot of brandy
- hot water

If your interested, Wikipedia tells me that hot toddies may have originated in the 18th century to make the taste of scotch more palatable to women. And how!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


When I say I wish I was at home in my slippers right now, I really mean it. They came to me all the way from Churchill, Manitoba thanks to Jillian, and they are pure comfort. I even brought them to Portland with me, and I predict I'll bring them to Saskatoon for the holidays.

When I first received them, I thought the polar bears would suit a reenactment of this scene in Me and You and Everyone We Know:

Today, the bears are getting along, but if I wear the slippers on opposite feet (or cross my feet) it's hard to ignore the tension. Anyway. You get the idea.

While I was looking for that movie clip, I found something else to share with you (isn't that always the way?). It's a Blonde Redhead video featuring Miranda July and some high-waisted pants. Can you resist? Can you really?

I have some things to tell you about, including my successful transition to a credit union, so stay tuned in the coming weeks. I promise I'll only get distracted by YouTube a little bit.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Fatherhood and Divorce

I've never hidden my love for Alec Baldwin (even though I've only paid him minor tribute on this blog). Still, I never expected that my affection would encourage actual Alec Baldwin gifts (now that I know different I'm going to talk about him even more).

I just recently left one government job for another (which is why I took a little break from writing), and one of my coworkers bought me A Promise to Ourselves as a goodbye present (I owe you a Christmas gift Vitaly. Do you like Alec Baldwin too?).

You should have seen my jaw drop when I opened the gift. I never planned to buy the book (since I'm neither a parent nor a divorcée), so my excitement took me by surprise. I actually have tentative plans to read it (starting with the chapter Leave a message after the tone), but for now I'll just admire the cover. He's really wearing a lot of make-up, isn't he? I prefer his look on 30 Rock.

If you don't buy the book yourself, you can learn why girls like me love Alec by reading this New Yorker article: Why me? Alec Baldwin's disappointment undimmed by success. I just want to give him a hug!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Making pumpkin cookies again

I'm always open to suggestions, so I tried my hand at the cookies that Lydia recommended after my last foray into the pumpkin cookie world; that is, I made the Pumpkin Butterscotch-Chip Cookies from Chow, but I used chocolate chips as per Lydia's instruction.

They were pretty good, but I think I might be sick of pumpkin cookies. Both recipes were a little too cake-like (I know, how is that a bad thing?). Of the two, I think I prefer the first attempt, but that's because I'm a sucker for icing. If I tried this recipe again, I would use both chocolate and butterscotch chips to shake things up.

Even though I've had my fill, I should tell you that these cookies went over really well at the meeting for which they were made. I'm pretty sure more than a few of those in attendance came for the food and not to discuss car co-op business, and they left satisfied thanks to this recipe.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Steve Martin and Me

I want to say several things quickly. Most of those things have something to do with Steve Martin and/or tentative plans.

First, I don't know what's up with Steve Martin. I want to love him, but I have a hard time making it happen. I didn't really like his over-the-top performance in 30 Rock last week. It was too much! Most of his recent performances have been too much! I remember loving him dearly, so Michael and I have tentative plans to watch L.A. Story to see if we can rekindle the feeling.

Second, I was thinking about The Jerk (starring Steve Martin) because Zoe and Dan were talking about it, and that reminded me of the song You Belong to Me. I tracked it down and I thought I would post the clip here because it's my dad's birthday and he loves this song too. Don't you want to gobble up Bernadette Peters? And what about the trumpet? And Steve Martin's reaction to the trumpet?

Finally, while I was looking for that song, I found this:

It looks like I'm going to learn how to play the ukulele from a teacher named boozelele and it's all thanks to Steve Martin. That's the tentative plan anyway.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Change of heart

Remember how I said I was done with posters? On Tuesday? I take it back. I was just reading the Dec/Jan issues of ReadyMade, and I came across some beatiful posters that are available for free (including the one by Nick Dewar, pictured here).

The posters address current issues in a style inspired by American Depression-era posters. You can see the originals in Posters for the People: Art of the Works Progress Administration.

Now I need to find something along these lines so I can put an end to the reign of the ineffective thumbtack.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No more posters

I love Todd Oldham. We've been looking for new things to hang on our walls, and I'm pretty sure I need one of his Felissimo plates to display in a shadow box. I'm fond of the bird, the kitten and the bun. I would love to buy all three, but I think they would clash.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I agree with Jen: the Ace Hotel is reason enough to go to Portland.

Zoe, Dan, Michael and I were in Oregon last week, and - if I may speak for them - the hotel was one of the highlights of our little trip (check out the Flickr photos for more proof).

Dan and Zoe stayed at the downtown hostel, but the hotel was our base, so they were able to enjoy most of the goodness of the Ace Hotel along with us: Zoe snuggled into the couches in the lobby with a cup of Stumptown coffee and planned her photo-booth escapades while Dan hunkered down with the other laptops (dang school work) at the plank table that overlooked said couches. Meanwhile, I danced around our room and Michael spent a few extra minutes in the shower because it was so spacious and lovely.

We loved the snacks in the room, even though they were a little bit pricey. We ate the beef jerky but managed to resist the draw of the $8 chocolate covered hazelnuts.

We also loved the room service options, but never took advantage of them. A thermos of coffee from Stumptown and a cheese plate from Clyde Common (not at the same time, obviously) is in the cards next time around.

Finally, we loved the simple design of the room, especially the desk and the bed. We might even be inspired enough to make some changes to our own living space. A mattress on the floor just doesn't seem right anymore (it's not as bad as it sounds).

Yes. We loved the Ace Hotel. That said, we were also slightly troubled that it was able to target our tastes so well. But we were more pleased than troubled.

Guest post: Making thousands of little stitches

Here's what's on my plate this afternoon! I am keeping pretty good pace on finishing my first hand-stitched quilt in time for my mom for Christmas! Like many crafty things, hand-stitching is not hard, but it does require enormous patience. In order to achieve artful heights, I'm sure many years and millions of stitches are required. So here are a few stitches towards that goal!

Once you've got the quilt in the hoop, all smoothed out and ready to go, there are only a few things to think about: keeping the thimble on, and making sure that the stitches are as even and small as you can make them. The finished stitches are so satisfying and charming, if I do say so myself. Hand-stitching 'has a quality'. I feel just as conflicted as Alvy Singer saying that. I wish I could find the youtube clip to link here so that you know what I'm talking about. Sometimes youtube is NOT a friendly search environment. Homework for today: watch Annie Hall. Or read this (Scroll down to the tables)! Or close this window, dust yourself off, and do whatever you like! All will likely result in a super afternoon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Guest post: Making food with varying degrees of success

When I was uploading pictures of tonight's project, Margarita Cookies by my favourite internet lady, I saw how many other little episodes of recent kitchen activity I have documented to show you. Maybe there's a bit of a blogger in me after all.

Above you will see a loaf of bread that I made. It is not no-knead bread. I have eaten no knead bread that other people have made that I like, but my few attempts at it have been pretty hideous. So knead I did! It was fun, and this bread LOOKS good! It was, however, pretty flavourless. Toasted, yes. Not toasted, no. It's progress though, and I was happy with it over all. Rome wasn't built in a day, friends.

Next, pumpkin puree. I know. Cut up pumpkin. Boil with water until soft. Blend/process. TA DA! It was delicious though, and beautiful. But I didn't capture it's glory very well, so you get a cutting board picture. I used my puree partially for cookies, which Erin coincidentally ALSO made! See post before this one for details! We made the same cookies, completely coincidentally. I liked this. It was like running into each other by accident in outer space. What are the odds?

Which brings us to tonight! It turns out that my camera might be dying...what do you think? It's old, and I'm not too sad, since technology has really advanced in the last 5 years. etc etc etc. So anyway, the cookies! They are in the fridge right now firming up. There are a few steps involving refrigeration in this recipe, so I'm glad I read ahead instead of starting them after dinner, and getting the diss. I'll keep you posted on how they turn out!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Ace Hotel Preview

I'm going to Oregon tomorrow! I'm excited for a leisurely weekend of exploring and staying at the Ace Hotel in Portland.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Making pumpkin cookies

After eating some pumpkin cookies with maple icing at Victoria's Pure Vanilla bakery last week, I tried to replicate them this week. The actual cookies were similar, but the icing was harder to copy. I have a hard time with icing, but I really like what I ended up with.

The recipe: Iced Pumpkin Cookie Recipe from All Recipies. I used the brown butter icing recipe in this post from Bakerella (except I used real maple syrup instead of maple flavouring). I think those Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies look pretty good too. Tentative plans!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Guest post: Making it across the finish line, as it were

I'm making a lot of things right now. I'm hand quilting for the first time! It's fun! I'm baking and finishing a second sock and that sweater is coming together. Not literally, but you know what I mean. I've been thinking about colour theory and sewing clothes. I've been thinking about that a lot.

I'll get to it. But not until after tomorrow night.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Synecdoche, New York

I've been disappointed with the last few movies I've seen in the theatre. I guess it didn't help that I wasn't excited to see some of them in the first place (hello, Body of Lies). Thankfully, I now have something to look forward to: Synecdoche, New York. Charlie Kaufman! Philip Seymour Hoffman! Catherine Keener (a new favourite)!

It opens on November 14. Want to go?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Living skies

The licence plates in Saskatchewan claim the province is the land of the living skies. Hear, hear! This photo was taken behind Rosetown Central High School during our visit home for Thanksgiving. Isn't it strange to think that I once watched football on those same bleachers? Wearing my matching Rosetown Royals hoody and jogging pants? That's what happens when you're in grade eight and you have a crush on a footall player. Don't let it happen to you!

We had lots of family time, including two Thanksgiving dinners, but our camera was focussed on our nephew for the most part. Can you blame us?

Birthday update: I didn't bake anything for Michael's birthday, but I did take him to Pure Vanilla, an amazing bakery in Oak Bay, on Sunday. The cakes were tempting, but he opted for a selection of cookies (pumpkin cookies with maple icing, anyone?).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Back track

I've spent the week eating poorly and cleaning the house in slow motion. That's what happens when Michael goes away. He was working in Duncan this week, and I just found out that he gets to come home today (a couple of days early). Also, it's his birthday, so I'm extra happy to have him in my grasp. However, I'm a little frantic because I didn't plan any birthday stuff. For example, I won't be making the cupcakes that I made last year. Nor will I be making this angel food cake. I'll let you know what I come up with.

I've been meaning to tell you about our September Cowichan Bay adventure, so I'm just going to go ahead and do it. Zoe and Dan (yes, yes we are friends with another couple with the same names) wanted to spend a day in the country, so we decided to check out the Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival.

We live so close to Cowichan Bay, but Michael was the only one who had ever been before. I'm glad we made the effort. I could live there.

We tasted wine at Cherry Point Vineyards and cheese at Hilary's Cheese Company. Some of us had treats at True Grain Bakery and then we had lunch next door. I can't remember what the place was called, but the meats and cheeses and soups were delicious. We were too late for samples at Merridale Ciderworks, but we bought some cider from their store all the same.

One of the most interesting attractions was Keating Farm. We tasted different types of sauerkraut and learned how to make it without vinegar. I got the impression that it's very good for you, and I have it on my Things Worth Making radar (along with those cute signs, of course).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Knitting a scarf

I've been knitting. I didn't finish a single knitting project last year, so I bought beautiful wool to help myself succeed this time around.

This is what my scarf looks like so far:

It'll be a lacy scarf, like one I made for my mom two years ago (knit one, yarn over, knit two together). I'm not going to try anything new until I get through a simple scarf. In fact, I may stick to scarves for the rest of my life. I figure I can wrap scarves around my body if I ever have to clothe myself with my knitting skills. Right?

Are you wondering about that pink piece of yarn, threaded through my project? It's a place holder, just in case I screw up the simple pattern and don't want to start from square one. It has already come in handy, friends. Do you remember teaching me that trick, Sarah? Thanks!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tonight, tonight won't be just any night...

I've been blogging in my head for the last week or so, but I guess that doesn't count. I'm posting this photo to hold you over until I get around to a real post (tomorrow! or the next day!):

I'm watching West Side Story tonight! Some of us have been making tentative plans to (re)watch this movie for a long time (years). It's finally happening. Look at those outfits!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Kiss me, I voted

I'm going to Saskatchewan this weekend! We'll be traveling back to B.C. on Tuesday, so we decided to get our voting out of the way early. I didn't want travel delays (whether caused by weather and/or airline bankruptsy) to hamper my voting rights, you know? While my vote is in the bag, I'm still excited for the rest of you voters.

Miranda July wrote about why you should vote a while back (I think Brie flagged it when it was first posted on her website), and I've pasted the text below, for your encouragement. Miranda also made a little website about supporting Obama, for those of you who are interested in another important election.

Here’s why you should vote: you are going to really love it, the whole strange procedure. You get to walk right into a building that you would never normally be allowed in, often an elementary school. You can pause in the hallway to look at all the weird school-art and feel the eerie vibe of hundreds of kids living their endless kid lives right nearby. Then you follow the arrows to the voting room and look at the faces of the volunteers - who are these people? There is a hush of secrecy, the voting booth is clunky, the whole thing seems fake somehow. You consider filling in all the bubbles, like you did on the SATs. But you don’t. You vote. You walk back outside feeling like you just gave blood or something, lightheaded from citizenry. You are wearing a sticker that says “I Voted” and you wish you could continue to get stickers like this throughout the day: I Ate Dinner, I Went To Sleep, I Got Out Of Bed, I Went To Work. But alas, it is just this one thing that we all do together, savor it.

Happy Thanksgiving! Happy voting!

P.S. Check out Things Worth Making, if you haven't done so lately. There's been a lot of action over there!

Guest post: Making myself a sweater

So, here's that sweater I was taking about! After a little break from knitting, I picked this back up last night, and we seem to be back on track! I'm making this sweater, which I think I discovered in Ravelry. It's such a blur when I go there, but I'm pretty sure that's right!

This is the second sweater-for-myself attempt I have made. The first round, armed with enthusiasm and a gift certificate, began with neglect (I didn't check my gauge) and ended with disappointment (a hilariously small sweater). Not so this time! I learned my lesson, did a pretty huge gauge swatch, and this is shaping up to actually fit!

So far I've knit the back, and one of the fronts. The picture is the second front. I'd say that puts me about halfway!

Updates to follow!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Making the apartment functional

Quite a few of my friends are on cleaning and/or purging kicks right now. Some of those same friends have noted that Michael and I don't have a lot of clutter in our apartment. I guess that's sort of true (we purged a lot of junk when we moved to Victoria), but I don't feel like our things are organized with function in mind.

A couple of weeks ago I took a small step to remedy that flaw, AND I finally used the drill that my parents gave me for Christmas: I put up some hooks to prevent us from hanging all of our things on door knobs. The one pictured here is my favorite addition. I found it for 5 bucks at Fan Tan Gallery.

In addition to providing a practical feature, I think these types of details help make an apartment feel more like a home. Sure, we can't change the old linoleum in the kitchen, but we can drill holes into the backs of our doors. That is, we can do it until our building manager finds out and gives us heck.

Vélib means "bike freedom"

Michael and I are fans of the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, because the Vélib bike program was his brainchild. We didn't try it while we were there, because, you know, we didn't really want to ride around an unfamiliar city without bike helmets on, but we were impressed by it all the same. It's a good idea, and people actually use the bikes.

We didn't think that a similar program would work in a Canadian city (especially because of the bike helmet issue), but then I saw this Vancouver Sun article. The wheels are turning in Vancouver, and I thought you might like to know.

Side note: I have tentative plans to put photos on Flickr and other plans to stop writing about Europe. I'm going to try to get there by the end of the week.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Guest post: Making new recipes - Stewed Peppers a l'internet

Tonight I tried a new recipe from the New York Times. We ate it with polenta.


Not only was it a warm, salty plateful of deliciousness, but making it steamed up the windows, which I love. Seasons! Warmth! New tastes!

I highly recommend this one.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Making it ok to eat two cookies at once

You may have noticed that I have a blog crush on Inside a Black Apple. Strangely, the focus of my attention is on her edible projects, not her art projects (for which she is more than a little famous). I like that she takes time to make decadent treats for herself, and I like her taste, so it's easy to see what I keep going back for more.

On Sunday, I searched her Food and Drink archives for a cookie recipe, and I found photos of peanut butter cookie sandwiches from this Cottage Living recipe. They were as good as they look in the photo, above. I thought that the peanut butter icing might be a bit much, but it's not the case. But then again, I only ate two of the sandwiches in the end, because my new plan of action is to make decadent treats so I can have one (or two) and give the rest away.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Guest post: Making assumptions, or a colour theory smackdown - A Preview

This is a preview for a series of posts about colour theory. I haven't studied colour theory, aside from doing my roommate's art school homework for her in years gone by. However, I have recently been humbled at the foot of the colour theory throne, and this humbling has resulted in new insight.

It is not a theory, friends. It is the truth. My approach of 'if I like everything that goes in, what comes out will work out' is not robust in the face of quilting's rules and realities.

The above is a (very satisfying) salvage effort! Two quilts were born from the grand schemes I had for a large quilt modelled after this one.

I would write more, but I can't stop watching this:

26 minutes well spent, friends.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Guest post: Making excuses

Friends, I have not spent the past month or so lying around. I have been scheming and making lists, and cutting things out, and experimenting with interfacing, and knitting myself a sweater. What I have NOT been doing is posting about it!

Marc took this picture on our trip down the west coast of the US in May. This is a seal on Cannon Beach: not dead, as we had suspected. Just sleeping. I thought it might be appropriate for this post.

I would like to keep posting here, and Erin has encouraged me to do so. Now I just have to get a few thoughts down in a form that you will enjoy reading, instead of keeping them all in a big cloud hovering over my head with all of my other crafty thoughts. My holiday gift-giving ambitions are considerable this year...I just have to take some steps to bring these ambitions 'into the real' as it were.

So stay tuned for next time, when we talk all about it!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Making tentative plans

While I haven't been producing much lately, I HAVE been making tentative plans to make things. Marshmallows, to be exact.

First, Emily at Inside a Black Apple featured these in a cup of hot chocolate. They look unbelievable.

Then, I found the smores pictured above at my local grocery store. The smores were tasty (and pretty), but they inspired me to make my own marshmallow treats, more than anything else.

Side note: I've had plans to check out Butter Baked Goods since Lydia at I ate the Lotus told me about it, but I never make my way over to Dunbar when I'm in Vancouver. I lived on Dunbar in 1999, and I didn't think it was so far away from everything. It's far away from everything.

Anyway, I've checked out plenty of marshmallow recipes, including the Martha Stewart recipe that Emily used, but I have yet to find a gelatin-free recipe. Is gelatin really that magical?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eating a macaron in Paris

I forgot to tell you that I fulfilled my tentative plan. Mulptiple times! I also got my parents hooked on macarons (they were in Paris after the Ireland wedding). Success!

That Pierre Hermé macaron was the best one of all. It is a vanilla "cookie" with pistachio and cherry filling. It was so good it made me sick.

The top picture features a macaron from Ladurée. I became quite familiar with these little darlings because Michael bought two boxes for his coworkers before we found out that our flight was cancelled. I couldn't let them go to waste. You understand.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


This is where I use my blog to record some lists of things that Michael and I don't want to forget about our holiday. It seemed like a natural place to put them.

Top culinary experiences:

  • Cappuccinos and croissants (fresh from the oven) in Porlezza
  • Gelati in Italy, but especially the fondente and meringa gelati in Bellagio
  • Meat plate with Holly and Corrado in Menaggio (see photo in previous post)
  • Cheese plate and carpaccio at Open Bar in Florence (see photo in previous post)
  • Pizza from Bella 'Mbriana in Lucca
  • Fig granita from Il Pirate Cafe in Vernazza (see photo in previous post)
  • Falafel from Mi-va-mi in Paris (with egg plant!) (thanks Sarah M)

Top revelations:

  • Jet lag sucks
  • Hipsters are global
  • We like the beach
  • The mayor of Paris is awesome
  • We are fond of Italian dining rituals
  • Michael looks Irish
  • Public displays of affection are very common in Italy
  • European women are that sophisticated
  • The Eiffel Tower is cool

Top overall moments:

  • Playing board games in Portrush
  • Ringing the bell in Porlezza
  • Discovering Siena
  • Seeing David in Florence
  • Biking in Lucca
  • Getting to and swimming at the nude beach near Corniglia
  • Lounging at the Alassio beach
  • Exploring the Marais
  • Riding a Segway

Things that worked out:

  • (all of our hotels were amazing)
  • Rick Steves (we used this guide book in Italy, and I LOVED it)
  • Back packs instead of rolling suit cases
  • GPS for driving in Northern Ireland
  • Small camera (easy to carry in your pocket)
  • Easy reading (I chose The Golden Compass and Watership Down)
  • Audio books on my iPod
  • Putting thought into wardrobe (we weren't fashionable Europeans, but we were prepared for rain and sun)
  • Cydwoq shoes (my feet were happy!)
  • Booking museums in advance (we snubbed the lines in Florence and Paris)
  • Learning about some history before the trip (Michael taught me about the Renaissance)
  • Securing Jen as a house sitter (we didn't get evicted when our rent cheque bounced)

Things we would do differently next time:

  • Bring a big memory card for the camera (instead of a second camera)
  • Throw some modern art into the mix
  • Bring a hand-held Internet device
  • Stay for a minimum of three nights in each destination
  • Fly with an established airline
  • Eat before famished
  • Sort out bank accounts before travel

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Give Paris one more chance

Michael and I were in Paris for 7 days. We were supposed to be there for three, but Zoom Airlines felt we should stay for a little longer so we could fully appreciate the city.

Even though I was ready to come home (since we'd been gone for so long already), I really liked Paris. I liked navigating the Metro, I liked the pain au chocolate, I liked having a glass of wine in Amelie Poulain's restuarant after stumbling upon it by accident, I liked being overwhelmed by history and I liked letting Michael convince me to do a four hour segway tour of the sights.

I don't think I'll ever stop laughing at these photos.

Oh yeah. I also liked the part where Michael and I decided that we are ready to get married to each other. They don't call it the city of romance for nuthin.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Making a necklace for myself

Europe. I shopped around for necklaces while I was visiting you, but I couldn't find anything I liked. Maybe I'm behind the times, but I'm not really interested in the big, chunky necklaces that all the European ladies are sporting. I'm still stuck on cute charms, you know? I decided to make something for myself when I got over the jet lag.

The best thing about making your own necklace is you can pick the length. I wanted something that hung a couple of inches below my collar bone (the most polite reference point I can think of), so that's what I made.

After I put a clasp on my chain, I added the owl charm and five jump rings with a purple bead on each one. I placed the jump rings on the left side of the necklace only, and they are about an inch apart. In addition to charms, I'm also a fan of asymmetry.

Oh, and Jen is pretty amazing too. Socks! I hear that she plans to continue writing about her creations every now and again. We're pretty good partners, but don't feel excluded. You can tell us about the things you're making too. Just say the word.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Even though it means winter is around the corner

Can I just say that I love fall? Every day has been beautiful since we got back a week ago. I get some kind of weird energy from the feeling in the air at this time of the year. This morning I was all, "Let's go camping this weekend...let's go to Vancouver sometime you want to go to Tofino next week?" It's making me crazy, but in an enduring way.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Three is the magic number

These three photos wrap up our last three stops in Italy, but don't despair. Last weekend, with help from some strong coffee, Michael and I wrote up a whole bunch of top five lists regarding different aspects of our trip (i.e. top five food experiences), and you can expect to see those in the near future. And then there's Paris to write about too.

This photo was taken in Lucca as we were heading to the train station. The walls surrounding this town are the main attraction, so I thought I'd provide you with a unique vantage point.

This was one of the most relaxing towns we visited. Instead of hustling around museums, we did other, better things, like riding bikes; we were able to bike around the top of the town walls, which are so wide they boast parks and tree-lined pathways, and we also saved our sore feet from the treck to the modern conveniences of our apartment, like air conditioning and television (the Olympics need no translation, friends).

I realize that you can probably find this photo a thousand times on the Internet, but there's a reason for that. Isn't it pretty? We were there! We didn't stay in that town on the cliffs, though. We stayed in Vernazza, which I hear is the favourite of the five Cinque Terre towns. I loved it becuase we had a balcony that looked onto the main street; figs, pizza and wine were consumed with an entertaining view.

The funny thing about this leg of the journey is we didn't walk between the towns, which is what most people do when they go to the Cinque Terre. I hear you can walk from the first to the last in five hours. Instead, we spent our time at the nude beach near Corniglia. That was an adventure too, and it involved some hiking, so I'm not too ashamed of myself. We had to walk through an abandoned train tunnel (where locals took cover during the war) to get to the beautiful black pebble beach, where we were tossed around by giant waves. It was a highlight.

I can barely look at this picture right now. Why don't I live in Alassio? Why don't we all live there, friends? We didn't get enough beach time during this holiday, but what we did get was pretty good, even if it did cost us a pretty penny to rent beach chairs and an umbrella on this beach.

This town was a wild card since we couldn't find information about it in any of our guide books. Michael decided it was worth the risk after he read about it online, and I'm just sad that we couldn't stay longer. This is where you should go if you want a beach holiday in Italy. The town was pretty boring, even though there was a week-long beauty pageant on while we were there, but the sand is white and the water is warm. Sometimes that's all you need.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Burnt Siena

It's not rocket science, friends. It's hard not to love Siena when this is the view from your hotel room:

Rick Steve's tells me that Siena offers Italy's best medieval city experience, so it has that going for it too. Also, it's pretty cool when you walk around the corner and find this:

That's me, dwarfed by the duomo. I guess that's the point.

It was our favourite city.

During our three night stay in Siena, we took a day-trip to Florence. A few of my friends tell me that Florence is their favourite place in the world, but as I've already made clear, I prefer Siena. However, I admit that I had some special moments in Florence too.

We went to see Michelangelo's David at the Accademia Gallery, and I was moved; it was unexpected. We splurged a little and went to Open Bar, thanks to a recommendation from Holly; I'll ellaborate in an overview of notable food experiences, but suffice to say it provided a peaceful sanctuary in a city full of sweaty tourists. Finally, we went to the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella before heading back to Siena, thanks to another recommendation from Holly. One of the oldest pharmacies in the world, this place still sells all sorts of tempting tinctures and concoctions. The packaging made my mouth water, and I shyly bought a few things that I will cherish.

I didn't buy any of these essences, but I wish I had.

Next up: Lucca (we rode bikes), Vernazza (we went to the nude beach) and Alassio (we paid a lot of money to lie on the beach, and it was totally worth it).

P.S. We're home!