Monthly Archives: July 2009

Tiny bubbles

  • There are only 4 full weekends to get through until it is time to go to Italy.
  • It has officially been 2 months since I last touched a cigarette, even socially.
  • I have attended at least 2 parties and been to the pub a number of times since then.  These are the hardest places to avoid smoking.
  • I have also hung out with Paula, who always has menthols on offer but have said no each and every time
  • We have almost finished the 2nd season of The Wire.
  • I love The Wire (specifically: Lester Freamon, McNulty, Omar, Kima, Ziggy, and um pretty much everybody, except for that no good Levy)
  • We ate our first homegrown Zucchini this week.  It went into a Courgette (zucchini), Petit Pois (garden peas) and Ricotta (ricotta) lasagne that was delicious.
  • If I am ever on the TV show Come Dine With Me, I will serve this lasagne because it is awesome.
  • I am 75% finished with the sweater that was supposed to be Jeremy’s Chrstmukkah present.  I have maybe three inches of one sleeve, an entire sleeve and the neckline to go.
  • While it is unlikely that he will need it in Sicily or Venice, I am hopeful that it will be done before we go.
  • Summer in London appears to have ended.  I woke up today and it was chilly and rainy.  Even Oliver the cat wasn’t sure if he wanted outside.
  • Unfortunately for him, there were interlopers in the garden today.  Two new cats, both looked young and both were white with grey and black spots.  One had orange cheeks.  I like to think of him as Rusty.
  • So Oliver ran out into the murky rain and gave the youngsters a sniff and a swipe to let them know who was boss of the garden.
  • Our aubergine plants have blossoms.  They are very pretty.
  • My slug traps, little beer pools, have been very effective.  The slugs, and some of the snails, all fear me.
  • We watched The Lives of Others last night.  It was very very good.
  • 4 more weekends.  Just 4 more weekends.


Filed under culture that is popular, garden, olimuhver, travel

Eye-talian Itinerary

So first we fly to Venice on the 27th and we’ll be staying at Al Gallion B&B  nothing fancy but nice enough looking and well located.  As mentioned before our main plans for Venice involve the Biennale, gelato, and prosecco.  We will also go back to Lido and probably Murano too.  Jeremy is also obsessed with finding a restaurant we walked by after dinner on our last night there 2 summers ago.  He is sure he can find it again.  I’m not saying I have doubts that he can find it, I’m just maybe not so sure as he is.

Venice is a maze.  Abeautiful wonderful maze, but still a tricky maze.

On the 31st we fly into Catania, Sicily where we will stay at 5 Balconi.  I think we’ll be in the pale blue room.  We’ll be in Catania for three nights and we will be renting a car so we’re probably going to drive down to Syracuse and up to Taormina and wherever else looks nice.  From Catania we’ll drive up the coast to Savoca (where they filmed The Godfather!  And where some of the Capuchin zombies are!) and then up to either Messina or Milazzo where we’ll take a ferry to the island of Lipari in the Aeolian Islands.

In Lipari we will be staying at the Agriturismo Monte Delle Cristule for 2 nights.  We’ll take a day trip to Vulcano and go to the volcanic beaches where you can take mud baths that are supposedly very good for arthritis.  We will also stare at the sea, eat gelato and drink prosecco.

From Lipari we will take the ferry back to the main island and stay the night in Milazzo at IL Vicolo.  It will be Saturday night at this point, so maybe we will go dancing.

In the morning we will drive across the center of the island to Agrigento where we had originally planned to stay at Ciuci’s Manor where they make donkey’s milk.  But Ciuci’s was booked up.  So instead we will be staying at Terazze de Montelusa B & B, where they do not, sadly, produce donkey’s milk, but according to the pictures on Trip Advisor, they do have a cat.  In Agrigento we will go to the Valley of Temples which I am totally 100% psyched about.  There is a temple to Demeter there!  She’s one of my favorites!   We’ve heard rumours about another mud beach there as well.

From there it is up to Palermo where we will stay at Butera 28, I think in apartment 7.  Plans for Palermo include exploring the city, more Capuchin zombies, going to the beach, gelato and prosecco.  I think we’ll be returning the car first thing when we get to Palermo and while there we might look into renting a Vespa for the city. And then on the 12th of September we fly back to London, where it will probably be very grey and rainy.

Yesterday we bought new maps of Venice and Sicily, plus a compass.  I bought an aqua blue bandeau dress from American Apparel, now I just need a couple more t shirts and maybe one more gauzy type blouse for when we go into churches so my arms won’t be bare.  we’ve been debating the merits of paying extra for sat nav in the rental car.  Probably wouldn’t hurt, but word is it won’t even work in Agrigento because of the mountains.

It’s going to be awesome and I am probably going to explode from impatience well before we get to 27th August.

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Scenes from the file factory

So my boss popped round to our corner of files and boxes this morning to discuss a conference call we were supposed to be having this afternnon with someone in Moscow

“So, how’s your Russian?” He asked me.

“Mostly pretend,” I said.

Sadly the call got cancelled so I won’t get to try it out.


Today’s Sicilian Update

When we arrive in Catania we will be stayiing here.  It looks really beautiful.  Sadly the agriturismo in Agrigento where they have donkey’s milk was booked up.  But we did read about a Capuchin monastary where they have mummified bodies!  Oh, those Capuchins they always bring the creepy awesome sights.

Like I needed more reasons to love Italy.


Filed under dorking it up, travel

Summer summer summertime

Our Dublin trip was really nice.  I have pictures but they are still on the camera because I can’t find the cord that goes between the camera and the laptop.  Mostly they are very grey because it rained a lot.  We did lots of touristy things, of which my very favorites were the Kilmainham Jail, the book of Kells, and the Chester Beatty Library.  I only had one pint of Guinness but drank plenty of wine.  I also bought a beautiful cabled cardigan.  It’s sort of a cable sampler and buttons just once to the far left side of my chest.  I’m a little bit in love with my new cardigan.  I may marry it.

Now, obviously, we are back in London and back at work.  It has been pretty grey here as well and it makes me miss Midwestern summers a bit more than is normal.  I find myself craving the sun this summer in a way that is not at all normal for me.  I am, typically a fan of sitting in the shade and reading a book, but this year I must be craving vitamin D or something because I’ve been obsessed with being outside whenever it’s sunny.  Maybe this is a sign that I am becoming truly British?  Can’t be, I’m still wearing SPF 30 (at least) every time I go out.  If you see me seriously considering either tanning beds or full on fake tans feel free to give me a shake and remind me that I am a pale American and that I would look peculiar and orange with any sort of tan.

The Sicily trip is beginning to shape up.  We will definitely be spending time in Catania, Agrigento and Palermo.  In Agrigento we’re hoping to stay at an agrtiturismo where they sell donkey’s milk.  Donkey’s milk!  We were going to stay at an agriturismo in Enna, near Piazza Armerina, but the reviews on TripAdvisor were not so great so now we are looking elsewhere.  The current plan is to go four place and spend three nights in each, but that could easily change. 

Also, after many recommendations from many friends, we rented the first season of The Wire and are almost finished with it.  Holy crap, it’s good!  I am in love with both McNulty and Freamon.  It was a slow start but now I can’t wait to get to the rest of the seasons to see what happens and how everything develops.  Also I need to check out some books by Pelekanos.  Crime fiction may very well be my new frontier.  Speaking of, Megan Abbott writes some really great noir style fiction about Hollywood in the late 40’s and 50’s.  If you like that sort of thing, you should check her books out.  I  haven’t read Queenpin yet but I really liked the other two.


Filed under america, culture it up, literatures, the travails of living abroad, travel

Fireable Offense

So we’ve been talking (obviously) about the Michael Jackson memorial a fair bit at work today.  And I mentioned that I really enjoyed Stevie Wonder’s performance and one of my temps said that he thought it was just okay and that Stevie Wonder was “overrated.”  Overrated!  I almost fired the ridiculous man on the spot.   I told him he had to go home and listen to Superstitious and then come back and talk to me about overrated.  Seriously, not liking Stevie Wonder makes you a bad person.  I didn’t make this rule, I just know it to be true.

Anyhow, in case you were wondering, here are my thoughts on the memorial:

  • Mariah Carey should have come out carrying a basket of puppies and then she should have wept, prettily, throughout her performance
  • Didn’t Berry Gordy take all the Jackson’s money when they were with Motown?  Either way his speech was nice.
  • Yes yes Maya Angelou wrote a poem.  Do you think there’s a drawer in her house labeled “Memorial Metaphors” that she goes to whenever a national figure dies
  • Magic Johnson was really sweet.  I wonder if Michael Jackson helped other sports figures as well.  Like did he make Tiger Woods a better golfer?  I hope so.
  • When Usher sang to the coffin I kind of wanted to punch him.  Instead I just said “Oh barf.” to the cat.
  • Brooke Shields was rambly but sweet
  • Al Sharpton gives me the creeps.
  • Stevie Wonder was not overrated
  • Lionel Richie! Lionel Richie! Lionel Richie!
  • I was actually surprised that Jermaine Jackson sang, it was a weirdly touching moment in the midst of all that macabre spectacle
  • Same goes for the short speech given by his daughter.  Poor kid.

It was a strange moment in television.  Sort of like a church revival but in the Staples Center rather than a tent.  The whole thing made me feel vaguely guilty, as if I was watching something not meant for me.  This often happens whenever I see grown men cry.  Or any grownups cry really.  I always feel as if I’m intruding even when it’s done on television

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My friend Tom has a theory that Michael Jackson isn’t really dead but is actually testing his fans.

Tom thinks that in a few weeks’ time Jacko will rise like a phoenix and announce that instead of the planned 50 shows he will only be performing a single show and the only people allowed to attend will be those who chose to get one of the souvenir tickets instead of a refund, because they are his true fans. 

I doubt this will actually happen, I don’t even think Tom believes it will happen, but it’s a nice idea.


Filed under culture that is popular, Musics

Returns (or: No, no, no, Prosecco!)

We’ve booked our tickets.  We’re definitely going back to Italy.  As mentioned before we’ll be in Venice first and then move across the country to Sicily.  We leave on 27th August and will fly into Marco Polo Airport in Venice.  From Marco Polo you take the Vaporetto (water bus) into Venice proper.  It’s about a 30 minute boat ride into the city.  We’re going to try to stay at the same place we stayed before.  It’s a small studio apartment owned by a B&B in the San Marco area of the city.  In the morning’s you pick up the phone and dial reception and say, “Due cafe, per favore.” and they bring you over two coffees, and a selection of fruits, rolls and cheese.  At this point it is vital that you check and make sure you are using sugar and not salt in your coffee.  Otherwise you will have a very sad start to your day.  We will, again, traipse about looking at all the art we can find since (as mentioned) the Biennale will still be on.  The third part of a show we saw two years ago will be showing as well at Palazzo Fortuny.  That is largely what made us decide to go back to Venice this year.  The show we saw, Artempo, was just about the best thing ever in the world.  It’s sort of manic layout totally changed the way I view art.  Instead of a typically ordered space showing art according to time or style this was all lavishly displayed around the palazzo as if you had just walked into an amazing, eccentric private collection (which you sort of had, actually).  The image I’ve added was a collection of paintings that at first appear to be plain white canvases but as you get nearer you see that they have very faint numbers painted onto them.  In the middle of the room is a large, ancient stone buddha.  I could have stayed in that room all day.  Just looking at the picture makes me feel calm.  I cannot wait to see what this new exhibit has to offer.

And we will, of course, spen lots of time wandering and getting lost, I’d like to explore Lido more this time and also the cemetery island.  And we will also go to sandwich shops and eat the delectable snacks from the counter while we drink prosecco under orders of the guy behind the counter.  It will be so good.

Then on the 31st we will fly to Catania in Sicily.  We will stay in Sicily until 12 September.  I have agreed to attempt to pack only a carry on bag so we can rent a Vespa (hopefully a vintage one) this means I will be on a hunt, from now until then, for clothes that are lightweight and wrinkle resistant, so I can roll them up small to squeeze them into my blue duffel bag. We’ll spend a couple days in Catania and then we’ll start exploring.  We haven’t decided where we’ll go exactly we just know we have to be in Palermo to fly back to London on 12 September.  I bought the Insight Guide to Sicily last week so this week we’ll be planning out a vague itinerary, maybe start to book  rooms, but mostly our plan so far is to keep this portion of the trip pretty loose.  We’ll mark some points on themap and make sure we have rooms lined up before we go, but the main goal for our time in Sicily is to be lazily amazed by the countryside and the views and the food and the wine and the everything.   I’ve got ideas about beaches and pools and maybe some leisurely dinners in tiny restaurants with jugs of wine, that’s right, jugs (large and plural) of wine.

So, apologies in advance, this blog is very likely about to turn into Italy zone as we plan this trip.  You’ll just have to suffer through or stop reading for the next couple months.


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