Monthly Archives: April 2013

This ain’t high school physics


Don’t look now, but there is a gaping hole in my archives list. Between January and, ahem, April. Remember when I said that you don’t necessarily need to have things figured out by the new year? Well, I would like to amend that to say, you don’t need to have things figured out for months and months.

And months.

In the meantime, I hope life has been offering up goodness to you: freshly laundered sheets, good parking spots, sunny Sundays, and the like.

In February, I had a wee bit of visa trouble which meant that I took a completely unexpected trip to Canada to spend nearly 4 weeks with my family while I waited for the rusty cogs of bureaucracy to turn.

Good news? Weeks of softly falling snow, laughing with my sister, cozy fireplaces, and Indian takeaway.

Bad news? Well, there can be no bad news about time spent with your family when you least expect it. Fact.


Plate(s) of food: My family cooked a full-on turkey dinner with ALL of the trimmings (including a “salad” with pasta pearls and Cool Whip. Don’t ask, just know that it somehow works) to which nothing can compare, except the bliss of leftover turkey dinner stuffed into a white bun and eaten at 11:00 at night.

Tricky for you to enjoy, though, isn’t it? So, here are some plates of goodness that you can get for yourself if you happen to be in Calgary:

Baked brie at Avec Bistro – gooey cheese accompanied by baguette, baby potatoes and gherkins for dipping. Perfect for sharing with someone lovely, over a glass of wine, as you discuss in whispers the state of the couples on either side of you. First date? Getting serious? About to break up? Business partners? All of the above??

Banana Bread pudding at Avec Bistro – warm, dense banana bread with a delicious pool of caramel sauce. Even better when eaten with the salted caramel ice cream that Matt ordered. Note to the people at Avec, I think you should just go ahead and serve those up together. I’m so happy you asked my opinion….

Calamari at Candela Lounge – this is no soggy, chewy calamari. These are delicate, coconut-crusted morsels of squid topped with just enough ancho chili to wake up your tongue and enough lime salt to refresh it. I don’t care how far away Calgary is from the sea – this dish was superb.

The best: Spark Science Centre. This is a museum like no other. It is modern, flashy, awe-inspiring, and magical.


Everything is interactive and the technology you get to play with is so advanced and slick. Just ignore the 8 year old who is probably launching a rocket beside you while you hit buttons and say, “But…how…huh?”

Sky colours

All your senses will be dazzled here: listen to a thunder storm! watch your shadow dance in slow motion! make a river basin with your hands! have memories triggered by different scents!…eat some crinkle fries for lunch! (Okay, not all are scientific, but c’mon crinkle fries are the best).


I leave this place feeling such a creative boost. Plus they have adults only nights with WINE. Go. Now.

Story that needs to be told: The pure joy I feel from seeing my kidlets play in the same house where I grew up and watching them discover snow, ice, hockey, and tobogganing all for the first time is matched only by hearing my son repeatedly refer to my brother as “that guy that lost his marbles”.

That is one misunderstanding that I will happily not clear up.

Hockey sticks

“There is no place more delightful than one’s own fireplace.”

– Cicero

The mysterious case of the Tuscan house


Where: In the countryside near San Gimignano, Italy

Plate of Food: I never struggle to eat in Italy – does anyone, really? Let’s not forget the epic feast in Tuscany which ended with me leaving with a new shirt.

When we arrived at our holiday home on this trip, our elderly hosts welcomed us with warm smiles and a bottle of their very own olive oil, pressed from olives grown on their land. Grassy green, rich, and fragrant. Can you imagine anything better drizzled over fresh pasta or crusty bread or ripe tomatoes? Nope.

Possibly having your very own home-made olive oil in Italy is as common as having your own toaster in other parts of the world. But to this girl it was a delicious symbol of a life full of simple pleasures. Italians really seem to have that figured out.


Later I discovered a cherry tree in their garden that was heavy with red, plump fruit. We laid on a blanket in the afternoon sun and reached out to the low-hanging branches to pluck a few cherries whenever we felt like it. How perfectly blissful.

The best: Being transported back in time as we walked through the gates of San Gimignano.

Have you ever been to a place where you actually felt time pause as your feet hit the cobblestones? San Gimignano does that for me. It is a place rich in history and full of charm; pigeons in clusters in the main square, looming church towers, narrow lanes filled with the scent of fresh bread.

It really does look like this!

I wondered if mentioning this popular village would be seen as a tourist cliché; that it is not authentic enough. Then I smacked my forehead (figuratively) and wrote about it anyway.

San Gimignano was such a beautiful, special place for me that the village still hangs on my senses like garlic lingers on your fingertips (I mean that in the best possible way!). That is authentic enough for me.

Story that needs to be told: We first drove along straight, divided highways with service stations selling good quality Parmesan cheese and espresso, then along narrow, unmarked country roads flanked by cypress trees, like sentries along the route.


We stopped at a tiny, bustling pizzeria to ask for directions to our holiday home. I approached the waiter, armed with my written address and my non-existent Italian skills. Amazingly we understood each other and the waiter knew the house, so he explained which direction to go and landmarks to help us on our way.

Surprisingly still, we actually found the landmarks and ended up outside the large gates to the house. No one answered the bell, though, so we tried the neighbours. I had another vibrant “conversation” with a woman who called down to me from her bedroom balcony while I stood in the dusty lane and shouted out random Italian words. (My knowledge goes beyond rigatoni, but only just.) She confirmed that we had the right house, but that no one was there.


With the day winding down, we drove into the next biggest town and wandered around looking for back-up accommodation. We came across a tired looking hotel which had a room, but more importantly had a friendly man working behind the front desk and he spoke English! We explained our problem and his solution was clear: “You must go to the police”.

The police? Aren’t they too busy with real emergencies? (Although in sunny, sleepy Tuscany, maybe not….)

He was insistent, so he sent us off with a written translation of our problem.

We reluctantly pulled up outside of the police station. We hovered outside the locked gate wondering what to do when we suddenly got buzzed in to the eerily quiet grounds. When we went inside the station it became apparent that no one actually worked at the police station. No hustle and bustle of dark-eyed officers (I can always hope), just a ticking clock and faded army recruitment posters.

Finally a man appeared at the front desk, took our paper and after a glance, disappeared again into the back of the building. We sat in the waiting room wondering if there had been any indication on his face that he could help us. A twitch of an eyelid? A curl of the lip? Nah. Nothing. So we waited.

Tuscany town

Then through the doors came two men. They greeted us warmly and chuckled with the police officer, then scooted us out the door. It became apparent that the older gentleman was our host and he had brought his son along, too. No doubt for the hilarious entertainment of picking up the foreigners at the police station.

They were friendly, but kept asking us where we had been.

To which we said, “We were at the house, where were YOU?”

To which they said, confusingly, “Yes, yes, where were you?” And so on.

We followed their car back along the road to the very same house we had been to and they settled us in. I had been full of questions, accusations, exhaustion, and confusion. But one look at their welcoming expressions, the clean terracotta tiles underfoot, and the silhouette of a church tower across the valley, made all of that disappear.

I think you’ll find that you always have a better time when you let all the “stuff” disappear.

Baby steps

“You lose sight of things… and when you travel, everything balances out.” 

– Daranna Gidel