So Much To See

I really enjoy exploring new places and Le Marche is an amazing place to explore.  It’s much more mountainous and maybe a little rugged compared to Tuscany but just as beautiful in a different way.  Definitely less touristy and maybe a little less polished than Florence and Siena there are fantastic hilltowns, or “mountain towns” that are just as beautiful and interesting.

The food has been fantastic.  I think we’ve cooked dinner in every night so far.  Markets are a little less exciting here…..smaller and more household goods and clothes than food….but what food they do have is great.  So fresh.  Melons and apricots seem to be in season at the moment and are sweet and delicious.

We’ve been to the beach a couple of times…..they call them “white sandy” beaches but truly they are rock beaches……very rocky beaches but they’re really very pretty with umbrellas and chairs that you rent by the day.  And the clear blue water and sky make for some great pictures.

We did a long day trip into Tuscany and revisited Cortona and Montepulciano, which are absolutely beautiful hilltowns with spectacular views in every direction.  After Le Marche though, they are almost a little too perfect.

I can’t count the number of times we’ve gotten lost, even with 2 maps!  The last time we had 4 and still got lost.  The signs that you are following sometimes just seem to dry up and you’ll come to a rounabout with the name of where you heading missing from any of the exits…..so you just go around again and make a driving decision to take exit #2 and hope for the best.

Getting lost and finding some little hidden gem of a town is the best part and really no where we are heading is that important that we have to be there by a specific time and we always try to incorporate and extra hour or two in our travel time to allow for those wrong turns, unmarked roads and right now a ton of road work.

Tomorrow we’re heading to Urbino and San Marino, where if we have any luck at all, we’ll meet up for coffee with my other travel buddy, Connie.  Thursday we’re doing a full day wine, olive oil and honey tasting tour.  There aren’t too many options in this area…..again because there just isn’t the tourist demand so we’re hoping this guy is as good as the reviews we’ve read.

I can’t believe these two weeks have gone by so quickly!  Saturday we head back to Bologna for the next part of our trip…..

L.

I Love Italy!

It is such an amazing place to visit.

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Our 4 days in London were great.  It was so much fun meeting up with my brother and SIL at the end of their 6 week trip all over Europe,  We had a great dinner and heard all about it.

We went to a play…..”Wicked” that was great.  You get to Leicester Square bright and early (opens at 10 but line ups start by just after 9) where you can buy tickets up to half price off for a number of different plays.

Brenda and I did the hop on/off bus one of the days……that along with a lot of walking in between.  Of course we stopped in a pub for a lunch of fish pie and the gin special of the day.

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Our last day we did a Foodie tour of the east end…..lots of fun starting at Spitafields Market.  Tour guide was a young guy right into the history of that area and food.

Friday we were off to Bologna…….another great place.  Our hotel was right in the centre of the “Centro Storico” so close to everything……restaurants, churches and shops of every kind.  The food was wonderful…..pasta for lunch, pizza for dinner!!  The hotel had a couple of nice terraces with good views….a great place for a couple of glasses of wine and to hear the church bells when they ALL start chiming….

Picked up our rental car early the next morning at the airport.  I drove and had no problem getting out of the rental car parking area and on the autostrada……our first stop about an hour into the drive was at one of the mega autogrills……coffees and snacks to fortify us for the rest of the drive.

The house we’ve rented is huge….we knew it was big but not quite as big as it is.  The rooms are all really big….each bedroom has a sitting room attached and we all have our own bathrooms…..a good thing when there are 3 women.

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We been busy familiarizing ourselves with our little town and the various shops and hours they keep……siesta is stricktly adhered to around here!!

Our internet was not working the first few days……after a few phone calls and texts to the owner it seems to have been sorted out now….at least most of the time, still a little dodgy when there are 3 of us working away.

L.

I Love Italy!

1496637730728We have not had the best luck with WiFi so haven’t had a chance to post.  It’s still iffy so using my phone at the moment. Hoping to have connection issues fixed today.

Great trip so far…..a pic of the house for now. More to come later….I hope!

 

L.

 

 

And I’m Off!

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Yes, definitely going to be another adventure!

I’m feeling really quite excited about this trip…..I have the good kind of butterflies in my tummy…..the ones I used to get.

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My new packing cubes worked perfectly.  I just had the wrong kind before.  I’ll definitely pick up another one or two for next time.

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This is the cube on the bottom left in my suitcase above.  The little Kleenex pack is to give you an idea of the size of this cube.  It has 7 tee shirts, 2 blouses, 2 sweaters AND 2 skirts!!  It’s two sided with lots of room for expansion. After all was packed it’s about 7 inches thick.  Supposedly your stuff doesn’t wrinkle as much when using these……but I’m definitely hoping there is an iron just in case!

 

 

It is incredibly hot here today!  Summer has arrived in all it’s glory……and I’m off somewhere!  I certainly hope the weather cooperates over there.

I’m taking my coat, so will look like a looney tune at the airport.  Two reasons for the coat…..I have a window seat which tends to be cooler and sometimes even breezy (with no control over the blowy thing!)….so I use the nice little blanket for my legs and feet and use the coat as a blanket on top  AND  it’s supposed to be raining in London!!  A couple rainy days, not cold though and then it looks like lots of sun and warm for our last two there.

Next post will be from Europe somewhere!  London has not been a good “free wifi” city on my past trips and the hotels will charge a fortune for it.  I didn’t even check to see if we had wifi at our hotel, if not it’s going to be a few days until we hit Italy….they are very generous there with free wifi.  Often in restaurants and cafes they’ll have a nice little plant pot or vase of flowers with the free wifi password taped to it.  We have it at the house too which is a good thing.

I’m off to do some last minute clean up for the cleaning lady….she comes tomorrow.

L.

Sort Of Ready

But not really……doesn’t make a lot of sense does it?

I made up my “to do” list and there is a lot on it!  It all goes around and around in my head but when I sit down and really look at it, it’s not that bad……just one of those things that keeps you tossing and turning all night and then come morning, after you’ve not gotten a lot of sleep over whatever, it’s really not that bad…..argh.

Still have all my packing to do and a few last minute bits of laundry and printing off all the “e” stuff that I’ll need for the trip.

Yesterday I was a Children’s Hospital all day with my granddaughter, which was a good day.  They were really pleased with the progress that she’s made so she can stop taking her daily oral med and if all goes well up to her next biologic infusion appointment in June, they will extended the time between appointments from one month to 6 or 7 weeks!  All good and my fingers are crossed that it all happens.

On the way home we stopped at the mall and met Auntie for dinner.  I managed to get my cell phone plan for Europe set up too…..so saved myself hours on the phone today!

Picked up a few things, like more of those packing cubes…..but I think I got the right ones this time.  I gave away the other two I’d bought a couple years ago because they just didn’t work in my suitcases.  These are a little smaller and double sided so hopefully they work better.  Those things do really help keep your packing organized….much easier to find something.  Otherwise I find I start digging through the suitcase and end up with a big jumbled mess of everything in it!

One thing I have to do this morning for sure is phone the place that I bought my sandals a few weeks ago.  The heel part has just about worn off!  Those cost a lot of money to have to be replacing heels already!  I hope  they have another pair in my size that I can exchange these for, otherwise I’ll probably end up having to get them repaired while I’m away…..very annoying!  They’re so comfortable so I really want to take them.

Lunch with my friend Donna, pedicure later with my daughter and just lots of puttering around here this morning.  I also have to phone the lawnmower repair place to see if they have the part I need.  The Community Venture guys didn’t call back….also annoying!  I’ve left them 3 messages now so will just have to give up if I don’t hear anything today, which is why I have to get that part……the kids will have to deal with the grass while I’m gone….maybe if they talk nice to the neighbours one of them would cut it but I can’t worry about it and if my grass is 3 feet tall when I get home, it just is!

The handyman did my deck, patio, mossy side of house AND cleaned my gutters yesterday….total bill $175!!  I am not going to complain about THAT!  If I have time today or tomorrow I’ll get the rest of the furniture up on the deck, if not that’s another thing I can deal with when I get back…….BUT last night at 3AM it was a major, stomach knot, stress thing in my head!!  Just why does that happen!  That thought along with a bunch of other muddled thoughts can really drive you crazy in the middle of the night…..argh.

I do have to still pick up some Euros and UK pounds which I’ll do on the way home from lunch.  I have some lurking around from other trips so not a catastrophe if I don’t get any…..another major stresser (or is it stressor?) in the middle of the night!

Cat food and meds……again it’s not the end of the world if I don’t get it today but sure was last night!

The biggest challenge for me will be getting that part off the lawnmower…..looked pretty simple on the videos….we will see!

L.

 

Quite The Storm….

Last night…..lots of wind BUT no rain, so as much as I don’t like a lot of wind I was OK with it.

We’ve had a few gloriously, hot, sunny, summer days…..I love it!  Yesterday afternoon some sort of a cold front moved down the coast bringing some pretty nasty high winds with it.  The sky was a clear as anything though.  Being on the coast we do get these wind storms every now and again but usually they come along and are gone in a few hours….not yesterday.  It started mid afternoon and just kept up all evening and was still blowing away when I went to bed around 11.  We lost power for a few hours…..just around dinner time but it was on again before bed.

The yard really looks like a cyclone has gone through……leaves, branches and millions on little pine cones.  My gutters are a mess so they’re going to have to be done soon before it rains.  The good news is that I’ve found a handyman….or rather Bev found one.  He’s going to do the power washing for me on Friday….yeah!  He’s also going to clean the north side on my house that, over the winter, has grown a lovely green coating of moss.  I’m going to get him to do .the gutters as well….I hope he can get it done sooner than later.

I’ve also found someone to cut my grass…..just waiting for a call back from them.  I’d seen their truck around the corner before but hadn’t taken down the number.  Yesterday they were there again so I stopped and picked up one of their brochures.  http://www.communityventures.ca/   Definitely a good price and a good cause as well, so I’m happy about that.  I hope they get back to me today so I can have this all sorted out before I leave.  The best part is I can cross fixing the lawnmower off my list…..for now!!

Things are slowly getting ticked off my to do list.  I’m working this morning for an hour or so….really it’s hardly worth it to go in for only that long.  Now that I’m finished that “project” I was working on the daily mail and bank deposit take little or no time at all…..really, one of the counter people or the dispatcher could probably do it then give the deposit to one of the delivery drivers to take to the bank…..OR they could hire a Mom with school kids that wants a few hours of work each day.  After the office stuff she could put some stock away for a couple of hours.  I’ve suggested that a few times so we’ll see how it all works out over the next month while I’m gone.  It’s not going to hurt my feelings if they find someone else!

L.

 

Summer Has Arrived!

Hooray!!!

We’ve gone from chilly, cloudy and wet to hot and sunny…..supposed to be VERY hot today….up to 29C/90F.

Dinner on Friday was really good.  My cassoulet didn’t quite turn out as hoped but it did taste good, which was main the thing.  I didn’t pre-cook the beans this time hoping that they wouldn’t go quite as mushy.  That sort of worked but still a little mushier than I would have liked……next time I won’t cook it for 5 hours, which was the suggested time.  I think 3 or 4 is probably sufficient.  I also used my big, deep cast iron pan this time….I really should use it more often for stuff like this!

The meat (chicken, country style pork ribs and that delicious sausage) browned in the duck fat ready to go in the pan with the beans…..

The flavor was great.  Not sure it was the duck fat, the pan or just all the meat…..especially the sausage.  I couldn’t get the sausage I had the last time…..from one of our local meat shops, homemade and absolutely delicious…..so at the last minute I picked up some of Jamie Oliver’s garlic and herb sausages….OMG!!  They were fantastic….I’ll definitely get some again.

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In the oven….you have to slowly, at the side of the pot, add more stock (to keep it soupy) and then gently “break the crust” every half hour or so, which is what makes it that beautiful colour.   Of course I forgot to take a pic of it on the table…..but it did look very nice.

 

 

Salad, bread and tiramisu finished off the night.  We are all organized for our upcoming trip…..it’s less than a week away.   I just have all the last bit of stuff to do, like packing!  I’ll get everything that I think I want to take laid out in the spare room and then put half of it back in the closet or drawers….I am determined not to over pack this time.  I say that all the time and still do so we’ll see how that turns out.  And of course I’ve got to get some money…..just enough UK pounds and Euros to get me through the first day or two then I can use the ATM’s over there (only ones connected to banks….NEVER the stand alone ones)  And when I was there last September we could even use our bank cards in some of the stores and restaurants!  Technology has come a long way!  How did we ever plan trips when we had to get all cash or travelers cheques?  I guess in a way it wasn’t bad in that we obviously had a budget and had to stick to it….now you just find an ATM and spend, spend, spend.  I remember coming home from a trip to Vegas when between Ken and I we had about $20.  Not sure what we would have done if our flight had been delayed……credit cards I guess….if we even had them back then.

My grass guy finally showed up yesterday.  He was supposed to come on Friday, which of course he didn’t.  He is not going to do grass anymore!!  He’s working full time and then spends his weekends doing grass…..or at least saying he’s going to do grass….and it’s just not working out for him.  This is NOT a bad thing, other than the timing.  I’ve said I was going to fire him for a long time anyway.

On Saturday when my son and the kids were here we pulled out the lawnmower because I was just going to do it myself……which I CAN do but don’t want too.  Ken paid a fortune for that stupid lawnmower so I thought I might as well use it.  Put gas in it and changed the spark plugs….good so far, except then all the gas started leaking out!!  Argh!!  The primer bulb has a little hole in it.  I went online and watched a couple of videos for directions on repairing it……seems sort of straight forward so I’m going to give it a try….I think!  Ah sigh…..Ken would have had it done in no time.  If I have success I’ll get the kids to do the grass while I’m gone and then decide what I’m going to do when I get back.  If I do it, it will save me $40 every two weeks…..I’ll have to think about it….is it worth it?  I have a weedeater and a blower so have everything I need…..hmmmm.

Lots of little jobs got done outside.  Now that the truck is gone and my driveway is empty you can really notice the mess that was made when the garage was being done.  I tried to clean that up a bit but there’s a lot of gravel and rocks that were dug up when they were doing the foundation…..nothing is going to make look better until I get the driveway redone.  Was hoping to do that this year since it really needs to be done but cha ching, cha ching…..it’s going to cost at least the equivalent of a trip somewhere!!

I have a guy coming to give me an estimate for power washing the deck and patio.  I AM NOT going to do that this year.  I’ve done it the last 3.  The first year I quite enjoyed it, the next not so much and then last year I was ready to throw the bloody thing off the deck.  It’s not a hard job it’s just that my power washer isn’t a bazillion psi or whatever it’s called and it  takes forever to do.  This guy will be able to do it in an hour or two so I hope he’s not too expensive.  Then I can get the deck ready before I leave.  I can’t wait to get the table up.  I must admit that I did a pretty good job staining it…..Ken would be proud of me!  I know he would have ended up doing it himself cuz watching me would have drove him crazy.

There are some days that I still miss him so much…..all those things that you just take for granted for so long…..like repairing lawnmowers!!  It would just all get done!  Now I either have to do it or hire someone to do it.  Depending on what it is I will also think it to death…..which more often than not is way worse than just doing it.  Think for two days and then whatever….actually doing it or making the phone call…..two minutes!!  Still a learning curve for me when it comes to this but I WILL get it sorted out eventually!

BBQ at a friends last night.  Hadn’t seen them since Christmas so fun to get together and catch up.  Baseball today, even though it’s a holiday (our Victoria Day weekend)….finally a nice day for it and it’s the last one now until I get back at the end of June.

L.

Another Terrific Visit…and Cassoulet!

As usual I had a great time at my friends in Sechelt.  Bev drove this time, which was an even bigger treat.  Now she knows how to get there on her own so I’m sure she’ll be making a few more trips over.

Today it’s back to normal….you really do get quite spoiled over there.

I’m making my cassoulet today!  I’m so excited to be able to use that duck fat…..I know I really need to get a life if this excites me….ah sigh.   I dug out my huge cast iron frying pan which I’ll try out this time.  Probably not a good idea to try something different when company is coming but really there should be nothing that could go wrong……I hope I’m not going to be choking on those words later!!

I’ve got to get my free range chicken (not organic, which my friend Rae likes but will have to do….) all cut up.  I think I’ll just brown the breasts (in the duck fat!!) to start and then add them to the pot much later since they tend to dry out more than the thighs and drummies.  Picked up some Jamie Oliver herb and garlic sausage, which I’m hoping is as good as the stuff I got the last time but couldn’t find this time!!  And instead of pork hocks or chops I’m using country style ribs…..it’s the bones that give them flavor and these just have a bit more meat on them than baby backs.  Once I get it all put together it takes about 5 or 6 hours to cook…..breaking the nice brown crust that forms every hour or so until the last hour when you just leave it brown up nicely.

I sure hope it all works!!

It’s kind of a pot luck…..Brenda is bringing bread (homemade….she’s been working on getting that perfect loaf) and dessert, Rae is bringing a salad and an appy.  And tonight I will open one of my sellered bottles of wine.  Ken had started buying me a nice bottle each year for Christmas…..ones that needed sellering for a few years.  We had such great plans as to when we’d be opening  each of those bottles.  We did manage one….back in 2012 when we got together with our friends before our trip to France.  I can’t remember which one it was but it had been in my wine fridge for about 4 years…..I think it was a 2004 of some kind of Chateauneuf de pape.  Tonight it’s an Italian wine….it’s not an expensive one but one that supposedly sellered well for 10 years!!  Well, it’s been 13 so I hope it’s just as good now.  It just seemed like the right time to open it with out trip to Italy coming up.

I get everything started soon so I can get the cassoulet in the oven and then by the time everyone gets here I can sit down and just enjoy the company until it’s time to get it on the table.  I’m hoping that it looks OK in that big pan…..I’m going for that “rustic” look…..we’ll see!

L.

Duck Fat

Yesterday I was in search of this…..and it was just not to be found!  Other than a 2 kilo bucket of the stuff….which I did not need.

The good part of driving all over hells half acre to find it was that I found this place http://www.hillsfoods.com/  Talk about a little piece of gourmet heaven for someone that appreciates not only good, organic meat but also wild game and some rather exotic stuff too….ostrich!!  Their prices weren’t too bad either so I’ll definitely be heading back there one of these days.

They were the ones with the 2 kilo bucket.  The lady there was incredibly helpful and suggested I just buy the duck fat (skin) and render it down myself.  Could it really be that easy?  Absolutely!  They have 1.5 – 2. kilo frozen packages of the stuff and it’s not terribly expensive so that is what I did.

I put the whole package in a big pan with a bit of water and let it cook on low for about two hours.  Eventually all the water evaporates out and you end up with the skin being deep fried in the rendered fat.  One website said that is when you know it’s ready for straining.  That skin gets crispy and becomes “crackling”, which is quite a tasty bit to have with drink before dinner but not too much because I’m pretty sure it’s a heart attack just waiting to happen.

It turned out really good!  I did have a taste or two of that crackling……..and yes, it is delicious but definitely not something you want to keep around.  I think I could feel my arteries hardening almost immediately!  I ended up with two small jars as well as a couple of cute little jars that I’ll give to Brenda and Rae when they come for dinner on Friday.  This fat will keep for months in the fridge so it’s quite cost effective doing it this way and so easy so if you’re going to use it often enough.  Potatoes fried in duck fat are incredible!

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It’s raining, again or still, which ever way you want to look at it.  BUT….the forecast starting tomorrow does look like it might be improving…..sort of like spring or maybe even summer on one or two days.  It’s not only been raining but it’s been cold!  They were or are expecting snow up in the Okanagan…..I hope that doesn’t affect the grapes!!

Off to Sechelt for a couple of days so hoping that improving weather happens quickly.  Bev is driving this time!  A new adventure for her.  This way if I don’t want too or can’t go over she’ll have the route sorted out and can go herself.  I’m sure it’s going to be a fun filled couple of days…..lots of food and wine and, fingers are crossed, that we’ll have some sun too.

L.

Happy Mother’s Day

For yesterday!!  I hope everyone had a great day.

A nice lazy day for me….and I mean really lazy.  My daughter bought lunch, which was great, take out Japanese!  Spent the rest of the afternoon watching shows we’d PVR’d.  Dinner at the kids place, which was delicious…..steak, prawns, scalloped potatoes etc.  I did help clear the table after dinner but that was it.

We had a fairly nice weekend, considering how our weather has been.  A mix of sun, cloud and the odd shower thrown in just for good measure.  Today is baseball day and of course it’s raining so cancelled yet again.  So far we’ve managed only 3 days to play since the middle of April.  We could probably get our there if it’s just spitting.  The outfield does get a bit mucky though…..probably not a good idea for a bunch of old ladies….one slip and there goes an ankle, arm or hip!!  Better safe than sorry I guess.

Had a great time at my “old” friend Linda’s on Saturday.  We did manage to sit outside in the sun….in our COATS!  They’re redoing their backyard……nice big patio and lots of walkways.  Lots of work but will be lovely when they get it finished……they have concrete to do so are at the mercy of the weather for now.  I spent a good part of the evening talking to Mike….his wife was the one that passed away back in October.  He’s still on quite the rollercoaster ride.  They’d just moved to a new area, new house etc. so lots of things for him to have to adjust too right now.  But he’s got a great circle of good and old friends and meeting lots of new ones too….new neighbours that have been great.  Just all takes time……

Now that ball is cancelled I can get things tidied up for the cleaning lady…..one of these days I hope that my house is in order enough that I won’t have to do this every second week when she comes…..

L.