Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Civita di Bagnoregio

Synchronicity is the operative word here.  Just the other day I had and email form Kat Sloma,  my blog friend  who has been living in Italy for the past two years.  She wrote a note with some suggestions for places to visit in Italy that are a bit off the beaten path.  One of the places she mentioned was Civita di Bagnoregio, which I'd never heard of before.  I didn't have time to follow up but just yesterday I discovered that Kath, who we'll be visiting with in her rented farmhouse in Umbria has a view over the valley to the little "disappearing" town of Civita di Bagnoregnio.  Kath says it's just beautiful--and it's where she goes to get her cappucino in the morning.  How's that for synchronicity?

Tomorrow is our last day in Victoria--a day to connect with the housesitters, get our Euros, and finish packing our bags.  I've been given an iPad for my birthday to take along with us on the trip.  It won't be as easy as a computer but I'm hoping to be able to post some pictures to this blog.  We are planning to travel light--with just one carry-on bag each.  This is a challenge for me as I always bring way too many clothes.  The trick is to figure out what I'll feel like wearing in a completely different climate and place.  I think it will be warm so I have to think summer even though it's still cool and moist here.

Next time I post it will likely be from Florence, Italy.  See you then.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Planning for Italy

It's true--we're going to Italy.  A dear friend has rented a farmhouse in Umbria and invited us to visit so we've decided to do it.  The last (and only other) time we were in Europe was in 1987 after we got married.  We spent a month in Greece and just loved it.  This time we're celebrating my 65th birthday.

Our itinerary includes three days in Florence, a week at the farmhouse, then taking the train to Venice and spending three days there.  Then back to the farmhouse with time to explore some Tuscan hill towns, then by train to Rome for a few days, perhaps Pompeii  and then north through Tuscany to the hiking trails of the five villages of Cinque Terra (pictured above) and then back to Florence for our return flight on 30 June.  Isn't that fantastic?

Our friend Kath is already there and she says the countryside in Umbria is sublime.  It's 90 degrees F there, which is just fine with me.  We've been enjoying temperatures in the low 50s so it will be a nice change.  The trick is packing for heat when it's cool at home.  We're planning to pack light, very light.  We're each going to take just a carry-on bag--that is if we can fit everything in. 

We have arranged for a British Couple to house sit and take care of the dogs and Jamie will be moving into our little downstairs suite.  He's doing well with his walking cast and his job.  In the process of cleaning our house up for the people who will be living here we've realized that there's a big job of getting rid of stuff when we return.  But now it's just getting ready and dreaming of a lovely Italian holiday.  I'm planning to post some photos while we're on our trip if there's easy internet access so you can enjoy the trip with us.

One week from today we'll be on the plane to Frankfurt and then transferring to Florence.  Incredible!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Poppies under the plum tree

These bright  poppies bloom all summer under the plum tree in my back yard.  My friend dug up a little clump for me a couple years ago and they're happily spreading and reseeding there.

Around dinner time the setting sun lights them up like jewels.

Most of them are yellow but a few orange ones are popping up now. Aren't they lovely? 

I'm linking this post to Garden Tuesday so if you're inclined you can go to see other garden delights.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Yukon is done

It's done.  The renovation that started last September is done.  At least on the inside.  Yesterday we moved all the tools out and finished cleaning the floors and windows.  A nice young professional couple from Calgary will be moving in at the end of the month.  

Here are views of the bathroom, one of the bedrooms and the back deck area.

This afternoon we'll be sitting out on the deck with a few friends who encouraged us along the way enjoying the ambience.

Just for contrast, below are a couple photos of the early stages of the work.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Running in circles

I can't believe it's been ten days since I posted here.  Well, actually I can believe it because I've been running as fast as I can just to keep up.  We got through the annual spring dog walk with about half the helpers we usually have.  Still mopping up from that one.  We're calling it the monsoon dog walk because we held it in a muddy field in the pouring rain.  Needless to say the attendance was down...but at least it's over. Hooray!

Now we're finishing the Yukon Street job.  We've been going flat-out on that one too.  Thank goodness we've had Harry's son Ben to help us.  The goal is for completion at the end of the week so it will be ready for the new tenants who take possession at the end of the month.  This week we're doing some outside painting and deck finishing with the goal of having a little deck party there on the weekend.

That leaves us just over a week to prepare for our magical trip to Italy.  At least I hope it will be magical (if we can find time to get packed and ready, that is).  I'll be spending my 65th birthday in Florence, Italy just seventeen days from today.  There are still a lot of preparations for this one as we're leaving the house and the dogs with dog sitters and we have to move Jamie with the cast on his foot into our basement suite.  So if you're wondering where I am and what I'm doing this gives you an idea.

I'm sorry that I haven't been able to read and post to your blogs.  It's just that I've been running in circles.  I've been too  too busy to blog.  

The photo above is of a sculpture called Running in Circles.  It's created from sticks!  Check out this blog to learn more.  This guy is amazing.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Transforming the fireplace

We're in the process of transforming a cheap electric fireplace that we got from Home Depot into a French antique.   We bought it because it was on sale and the scale of it was right for the room and it had a kind of old fashioned look that we thought would go with the 1898 Yukon Street house.

It stood in the living room all winter and although it kept the room cozy, by spring we decided that we didn't like it.  I wish I could show you what we started with but (as usual) I forgot to take the "before" picture. It was solid black and around the firebox inside the wooden arch there were some plastic panels meant to look like marble, but very fake.  The bottom of the fireplace was a narrow board also painted black.

To begin the transformation we found some small red tiles for the inner part and Ben created a larger "hearth" that he also tiled.  Harry created a wooden edge to the hearth.  Then Jane taught me her secret antiquing  techniques using brush, hammer and nails, rags and paint and varnish.  I still have to complete the tiles with brown grout but I couldn't wait to show you the transformation. It's been a joint effort for sure.


I think it's starting to look like something we found in the French countryside.  I bet nobody (but you) will ever know it came from Home Depot. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stylish blogging

I'm honored to receive this award from Julie from What Else is Possible.  We met through the A-Z Challenge and have a fair bit in common (dog training, writing, love of nature, walking, ect.) 

This award requires the recipient to tell seven things about themselves and then nominate 10 to 15 other bloggers to receive the award.  The second part is easy as there are so many stylish bloggers out there.

The first part took a little thinking on my part.  But here is my list:

1.  I love to paint.  Since I was a little girl I loved to paint.  Whether it’s painting walls or window frames or big abstract acrylic canvasses or my latest thing, water colours, I love to paint.  Mostly my paintings now are from photographs I've taken of the great world outside (i.e. nature)

2.  I have a weakness for ginger snaps.  To me these are the absolute best cookies in the world—buttery and spicy and rich with molasses.  I have several recipes and would be willing to share.

3.  You could call me a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.  Here are just some of the jobs I’ve done:  elementary school teacher, radio copywriter, gardener’s assistant, administrator of typing tests, seller of flowers on street corners, freelance writer for government publications, carpenter’s helper, dog trainer, assistant to a psychic channeler, director of communications for a government department, teacher of English as a second language, bookseller.  I could probably think of more but this gives an idea.   What was my favorite job?  I think maybe bookseller because I got to read the books when things were slow.  Gardeners helper comes in second because I love gardening and it kept me in good shape.

4.  My dream of traveling to Europe is about to come true.  We are going to visit Italy for a month in June.  A friend has rented a farmhouse in Umbria and invited us to visit her and we have accepted with great excitement.

5.  I’ve worn glasses since I was in grade six and I hate them.  For about a decade I wore contact lenses but gave it up when I was pregnant with my second child.  Most of the time I walk around with my glasses on top of my head like a hair band.

6.  For the past eight years I’ve been involved as a volunteer in a dog owners association.  This has been an enriching experience and I’ve learned many things but I am now ready to move on.  The biggest challenge to date is disentangling myself from all the things I've been involved in.  I’m still working on how to let go.

7.  I’m interested in just about everything.  This causes problems for me as I try to absorb everything I encounter in my day including all the articles in the magazines and all the radio interviews I listen to.  My memory isn’t as good as it used to be so it's frustrating at times.  That’s why blogging is so great.  I can write it down and post it and forget it.  Also I can visit dozens of blogs and connect with new people and learn new things. 

Now to nominate some stylish fellow bloggers.  In no particular order they are:

That's fifteen.  I could add more.  There are so many wonderful spots to visit.  Hooray for blogging!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Before, during and after

The kitchen at Yukon Street is done.  Just this afternoon we put up some final touches--a stainless steel bar behind the sink for hanging utensils beside the new stove. 

Here's a quick succession of pictures to show the undoing and redoing of this room


And after:

Quite a contrast!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cactus rimmed in light

It's been a while since I've posted to Kat's Exploring with a Camera blog so I'm joining in tonight.  Kat's recently looked at photographs that are rimmed with light and this image of a cactus fits the bill.  What appealed to me about this particular shot was the heart-shape.  Oddly enough I'm not the only who who has photographed heart shaped prickly pears; my blog buddy Angry Parsnip posted a similar photograph just a few days ago.  You can see it here.  Hers is lighted very differently so you'll be able to see quite another view of this amazing plant. 

Because I live in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by tall cedars and firs I am (naturally, because we humans love novelty) fascinated by the desert plants.  The photo above was taken last April on our way home from wintering in Mazatlan.  We spent a few days in Arizona and I have to admit that I spent a lot of time looking at and photographing succulents and other types of cactus. 

PS:  Elizabeth May is leading in the polls at this point.  Crossing my fingers that she may be the first green candidate elected in North America.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Voting Green

Tomorrow is the day of a federal election in Canada and I am lucky enough to live in the Saanich and the Islands electoral area.  This means that I can cast my vote for Elizabeth May, the leader of Canada's Green Party.  It's not the first time I've voted green, but this time I'm extremely hopeful that we might actually be able to elect a Green Party candidate.  Polls put her neck and neck with the incumbent.

I'm actually very tired of politics in Canada but the idea of potentially being able to send a  Green candidate to Ottawa is exciting to me.  It would be a historic shift from the old-style politics.  Tomorrow we'll see if there are enough people in this riding who share my excitement about the potential for change.