30/09/2013 The Farmhouse: blogtember challenge

Monday, September 30: Share a photo of something old. Maybe something  that has personal history for you, that was passed down to you, and that has  special meaning to you. Tell us about it and why it’s special.

I was a bit stuck for this Blogtember challenge until I remembered that the OH and I drove past the old farmhouse where my dad grew up the last time we were in Canada. So, I’m going to blog about an actual farmhouse for this Blogtember challenge.

The old farmhouse. Photo: AJTC

The old farmhouse. Photo: AJTC

The funny thing is, I don’t really have any memories of this farmhouse. By the time I was old enough to really connect to this place, my grandparents had moved out. However, I still remembered roughly where it was – even though I hadn’t been anywhere near it for the last 23 years. When we were out searching for it, my uncle was driving around and almost drove right past it until I shouted and told him to stop the car.

It was quite an atmospheric day: overcast, autumnal, and damp from a morning shower. The leaves in Ontario were changing quickly and making beautiful splashes of colour against the grey background. I think the mood suited the farmhouse which was in need of a good lick of paint. However, the house looked like it had settled into its landscape well. I felt like it could tell a number of different stories about mundane activities of different members in a family and also across different generations. I would have loved to have gone inside. While I wouldn’t be able to tell what had changed, it would have been nice to look around.

What makes this ‘something’ so important to me is because its a physical piece of my history. My father lived there for a significant length of time, and it reflects the type of places and houses that my grandparents lived in as well. It also reflects a certain type of living and life which has become more eroded since I was a child.

During the same trip, we went even farther north to visit a place where my grandparents settled before my father was born.

Photo: AJCT

Photo: AJTC

This rather bleak image is of the remains of an old hydro-electric community where my grandparents lived before my father was born. I remember hearing so many stories about the Canyon and had always wanted to go and actually see what it was like. I couldn’t really envisage what it would look like. I had seen some black and white photos of the Canyon when there were houses still erected, but these were knocked down after the hydro dam was mechanised.

Abitibi Canyon - photo by RH Frampton

The Canyon. Photo: RH Frampton

My aunts and my grandparents lived here for a while, in a very isolated community. I can’t imagine growing up in such an isolated community. It was virtually cut off during winter, and the only hospital was miles away by train. My grandpa used to talk about hunting geese and other wildlife up around the Canyon.

When I was at the Canyon, it was virtually silent bar the sound of the river and dam. It had rained heavily on the drive up to the settlement, and I was fighting a cold. I found the place rather eerie. There were loads of memories, and experiences that had been obliterated by the destruction of the houses and the mechanisation of the Dam, but at the same time, it was clear that nature was starting to come back in slow dribs and drabs. Soon, any indication that people  used to live in this place were going to be erased.

Considering the length of time that it took to get there (2 days) and the length of time that we stayed (about 1 hour), I’m not sure that anyone else would consider it a worth while trip, but I had always wanted to go and see where my grandparents affectionately called the ‘Canyon’ and remember that times were so very different back then.

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26/09/2013 posting from a café: blogtember challenge

Thursday, September 26: Go to a coffee shop. Order a favorite drink. Write about what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Or write about anything you’d like! Bonus points for including a photo from the coffee shop.

Today’s blogtember challenge is about a change of place for writing. While I didn’t have my laptop with me when traveling, I did compose a small blog post about an amazing café in EUR (Rome). The OH and I discovered it last time we were in Rome, and wanted to go back again. The breakfast ‘cornettos’ (Italian versions of croissants) are amazing. The coffee is fantastic and the service is so friendly.

I love watching people interact in Italy – they’re so much happier to sit and chat, and enjoy simply being. I wish this was more the case in the UK, but I think that much of it is also the fact that the weather in Italy allows life to proceed slightly slower. I digress, I was talking about the food.

The owner of the café came up and started talking to us. It turned out that she had been to the UK and stayed in Scarborough to improve her English (which was excellent) when younger. She and my MIL chatted for a while, and our breakfast arrived.

While we had simply ordered a ‘lievito’ which was the breakfast break of the day (although it directly translates to ‘yeast’), we ended up with a small sample of zabaglione, some of their little sweets, cappuccino, water and various other things. In the end, we had to use two tables to hold all the different treats and take a doggy bag with us.

The house ‘lievito’ was a beautiful puff pastry (similar to croissant pastry) filled with the most delicious marmalade. After eating one of those, you didn’t really need to eat for the rest of the day! The sweets included profiteroles and delicious mini sponges with chocolate, and tiny fruit tarts. All were excellent.

I will definitely go back to this café next time I’m in Rome. Here are two photos of when the OH and I went last year. They left us to eat our breakfast, drink our coffee and write in the peaceful environs of the café.

 

Photo: CanadianKate

Photo: CanadianKate

Photo: CanadianKate

Photo: CanadianKate

 …and for those of you who want to go there, or are in Rome, here is where it is:

25/09/2013 Mistake: blogtember challenge

Wednesday, September 25: Write about a time you screwed up – a mistake you made.

I’d like to think that I never screw up, make mistakes, or every do anything wrong. However, that would be a complete and utter lie! I make plenty of mistakes, and often they’re rectifiable and so slight that nothing much happens.

However, with my chosen sports, mistakes often occur when tired and as a result of a split second lapse of concentration, or slight wobble over which path to make/take, and can result in pretty horrible injuries.

One of the most annoying mistakes of recent times was my decision to campus train when tired and at the end of a session. This in itself wasn’t such a terrible thing, and I actually put in a pretty good session. However, since then, my middle finger has been tweaky at best and downright painful at worst. I had hoped that after two weeks off and a completely rest, my finger would be better. Unfortunately that’s not been the case. At the first session back after my holiday I tried to pull on and the pain was but, but even more so!

Photo: CanadianKate

Photo: CanadianKate

After taping up and climbing slowly, the pain lessened. However, I think it will take a very long time for my finger to heal completely. I tried climbing today as well, and sticking to easy problems with little risk of slipping or crimping hard, I could complete a fair number before the pain started.

Moral of the story: if tired, don’t push yourself!

 

24/09/2013 A Review of Blue Guide to Sicily: blogtember challenge

Tuesday, September 24: Review a book, place, or product.

Today’s Blogtember challenge is really difficult for me! I’m torn between reviewing the Blue Guide: Sicily (Ellen Grady, 8th rev edn, Blue Guides, 2012), and Rome (Oxford Archaeological Guides) [Kindle Edition] (Amanda Claridge, 2nd edn, OUP, 2010). I used both of these guides when in Italy and both were excellent. Because I couldn’t choose between them, I’ve decided to review both of them in turn.

Blue Guide: Sicily

I chose this guide because when I go to do ‘culture’ rather than ‘adventure’, I want information on the history and architecture of the place that I have gone to. This is why I chose the Blue Guide for Sicily and it did not disappoint. While the blurb on the back of the guidebook is somewhat limited [see photo], the publisher’s description was more detailed and swayed me to buy the book. It states:

‘Fully revised and updated new edition of this popular Blue Guide, by Sicily resident and tour guide Ellen Grady. The author is assisted on this edition by ancient historian Michael Metcalfe, who contributes his scholarship to the entries on the ancient Greek and Roman remains.

While this guide retains the Blue Guides’ traditional focus on architecture, art and archaeology, with in-depth coverage of all the sights, both the famous and those off the beaten track, the author is also an expert on the cuisine of Sicily and each chapter contains detailed and up-to-date listings of where to eat and what local specialties to sample. Fully revised accommodation sections are also included, along with information on Sicilian wine.

Ideal for on-site use as well as for at-home study and to help visitors plan ahead.’ [source]

Photo: CanadianKate

Photo: CanadianKate

In this review, I’m going to focus on the three things that I find useful in a guidebook: food recommendations (for the limited times we eat out), detailed maps of different sites and clear information on opening times/how to get there, and clear, informative and easy to follow historical/archaeological/architectural information about the site itself.

Food recommendations:

The best thing about this guide was that all the recommendations concerning where to stay, where to eat and the local attractions were helpfully put at the end of each provincial chapter. This meant I could quickly flick to the back of the chapter, [see photo] and look at the recommendations by place and price. The description given in the guide book was clear, to the point and very informative.

We only ate out once, and used the guide as the basis for our decision. There were three recommendations for Sciacca and we looked at each in turn. One was very snobby and pretty much booted us out immediately, one was very definitely closed, and the final option was a success. We ended up at La Lampara in the port of Sciacca.

The most amazing deserts at La Lampara, Sciacca. Photo: CanadianKate

The most amazing deserts at La Lampara, Sciacca. Photo: CanadianKate

The food was amazing, and will have a blog post to itself it was so good. The service was pretty good, although there were some stumbling blocks in terms of translating the menu from Italian to English. However, I think that part of the fun of travelling and exploring new places is ordering food without entirely knowing what I’ll end up eating; I didn’t mind that so much.

I especially liked the additional section on local specialties, and the section on local festivals and events. These sections are informative and reading the descriptions of the local delicacies made my mouth water. These specialties aren’t just limited to food and also cover things such as pottery and coral. However, if you do go to Sicily you have to eat the deserts as they are out of this world. Especially the pastries and granita.

Maps and detailed information of cultural sights:

I found the maps in the guide very informative and detailed. I’ve used the example of the map of the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento to show the detail and clarity of the layout [see photo]

Map of Agrigento. Photo: CanadianKate

As you can see, the points of interest are very clearly outlined on the map, and the distances are very clear as well. I found it easy to direct other friends to our rendezvous point after we were separated and we found a lovely walk that took us off the beaten track in order to explore areas of the Park that I had not yet seen.

Information about the history, archaeology and architecture of different sites:

The guide gave detailed information about most of the usual tourist sites such as Agrigento and Syracuse. However, it also included detailed information about sites that are usually off the beaten track and as a result I got so much more out of our trip. We went to places that I had not heard of, or only had limited information about and they were quiet!

We mainly focused on the ancient history of Sicily. I’m not fussed about churches and things like that unless they’re truly spectacular. The guide is excellent and provides easy to read and in-depth information into the history of each site along with the differing academic opinion about them. Perhaps as I’m an academic myself, I like the fact that the guide acknowledged that there are differing interpretations of the ruins and jumbles of rocks that I was walking through!

Here are some photos of the more detailed information given:

Agrigento information. Photo: CanadianKate

Agrigento information. Photo: CanadianKate

Photo: CanadianKate

Photo: CanadianKate

I would really recommend this guide for anyone going to Sicily. If you have done your research before hand on where to stay and the usual issues of safety etc, you don’t really need that in your travel guide. This Guide includes both, but strongly focuses on the interesting and informative rather than the practical.

20/09/2013 Comfort: blogtember challenge

Friday, September 20: React to this term: comfort.

Friday’s blogtember challenge was to react to ‘comfort’ as a term. Being on holiday has given me time to think of my own comfort level in terms of proximity to my parents, my MIL and also what I need around me to feel comfortable in different situations. I have also had a chance to consider what material and other comforts I miss after being away from home for any period of time. On the whole, these are practical tips for achieving physical comfort when travelling, or during times of stress.

Comfort takes many different forms. In the OED, comfort is defined as ‘a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint’; a ‘prosperity and the pleasant lifestyle secured by it’; or the ‘consolation for grief or anxiety’. [source]

I’ve been on holiday for the last couple of weeks, and on the whole it has been a relaxing and enjoyable time away. However, for a number of different reasons, it has also been hugely stressful and emotionally draining. During these times, I seek physical comfort from my OH, and when at home, from my cats.  As I suffer from insomnia when stressed or upset, physical comfort is hugely relaxing. It reaffirms that I am needed and loved and wanted.

So, when travelling, I take a couple of items which help me prevent insomnia and are really ‘crutches’ to reduce anxiety. These are in the form of an eye mask and ear-plugs. No matter how much I am looking forward to my holiday, I still find travelling stressful. By having an eye mask and ear-plugs with me I know that I should be able to get so sleep no matter how uncomfortable the bed is, or if there are any snoring people nearby. This was hugely important during the holiday as my MIL snores like a trouper. Even with earplugs, it was difficult to fall asleep at times!

For a number of reasons, I really missed my cats this holiday. It was one of the longest times away from home for a while, and the final part of my holiday was hugely stressful. Perhaps it was a case of spending too much time with my family, or the heat of Sicily; but for whatever reason, I really could have done with some unconditional comfort that a cat can give.

There is something so peaceful about curling up with a cat, or having a cat curl up in the small of my back and purr. They always know when I’m upset or feeling ill. Connie has the most comforting purr which resonates through me and she gives this comfort unconditionally, because she loves me. I really missed this when I was away. For a number of different reasons, the final part of my holiday was hugely stressful. Perhaps it was a case of spending too much time with my family, or the heat of Sicily, but for whatever reason, I really could have done with some unconditional comfort that a cat can give.

So, when thinking about comfort, right now it centres on my physical comfort that I gain from interactions with my cats. I think this is because I’ve felt very deprived of cat cuddles over the last couple of weeks or so!

11/09/2013 ooh, shiny things: a blogtember challenge

Blogtember Challenge: Share links to your favorite online shops, preferably with a few photos of your favorite items in each shop.

I’m not particularly consumerist, so I don’t really have a ‘favourite’ online shop. That said, I do like looking at running, cycling and climbing gear. So here are some links to some online shops that cater for women who like the outdoors:

Gear for Girls

They sell running, climbing and general outdoors clothing and kit.

I really like the Patagonia bra that they’re selling at the moment. Underwear seems to be something that I resent having to buy, and as a result, I never seem to have any!

Patagonia Active Bra. Source: gearforgirls.co.uk

Minx-girl

I love looking at the clothing on Minx girl. Some of it is so cute! The polka dot jersey jumped out at me recently – it’s definitely one that would make me visible on the road!

Twin Six Queen of the Mountain Jersey. Source: Minx-girl.com

Ana Nichoola

Ana Nichoola’s stuff is amazing. I’ve got her sun cat jersey which is one of the best pieces of kit that I’ve owned. It’s super comfortable, looks great and really well designed. I would quite happily buy the whole of the shop, but will limit myself to three (maybe) four items. The dress looks super comfy and really pretty. I’m not sure how it would look on me, but the images of it on other people make it look really cute.

Blue Cafe Jersey Dress. Source: AnaNichoola.co.uk

I absolutely adore the sun cat shorts. I really would love another set of bib shorts, but I refuse to buy any that don’t acknowledge women’s anatomy and the fact that we also pee, and if on a ride, will pee by the side of the road. I hate having to strip in order to answer a call of nature. With that in mind, these shorts have a high enough waist that means I shouldn’t get any cold sports and they shouldn’t ride down.

White sun can shorts. Source: AnaNicholla.co.uk

I’m currently on my second pair of gloves this summer – and I’ve not really done any mileage at all. These gloves look really hard wearing and well designed. The arm warmers are mainly frivolous – like the dress – as I already own a pair, and you can’t really wear more than one pair at a time. However, they would match my jersey top, and the summer is drawing in…

White Kestral Gloves. Source: AnaNichoola.co.uk

Her Pleasure Arm Warmers (Grey). Source: AnaNichoola.co.uk

When I was redecorating the house, I used to spend hours looking at different paint colours. I really wanted to keep to the heritage of the house, even though it’s only a small terraced property. As a result, I scoured loads of different house related websites.

I loved the inspiration sets by Dulux heritage. The colours are fantastic on the walls and I don’t think I will ever try any other type of paint. We (well I) chose warm pearl for our bedroom and it’s such lovely colour. Yes, it’s pink, but it also changes depending on the light. We haven’t gone for the ‘romantic’ style but have used neutral colours to make a calm room. The bed, wardrobe and doors are all wood and the carpet is a neutral beige. However, shapes and wood used are all those that would have been used in the early 20th century. In sum, its pink, but not a girly pink.

Romantic bedroom with Warm Pearl

Bedroom with Warm Pearl. Source: Dulux Heritage

So there you have it. I love Ana Nichoola right now. Been though it’s nearly winter, I would quite like some shorts and I’m starting to like pink.

10/09/2013 A momentous turn: blogtember challenge

Blogtember Challenge: Describe a distinct moment when your life took a turn.

I moved from Canada to the UK when I was 12. It was a very momentous summer. I seem to recall being told that we were moving one evening, and about 3 months later, watching many of my possessions being sold in a yard sale. This included my climbing frame that I had had since I was 5 years old. I really cried when that went. It made the whole thing so much more real than it had been before.

The house was packed up in about a week. My mom had managed the whole thing on her own as my dad was working away. Our dog was super stressed at the situation. I think we were in the same boat, although it manifested itself in different ways. I dived deeper and deeper into reading. I think I read over 20 books that month, and he lost the use of his back legs and developed colitis.

Soon it was time for us to leave. I actually can’t remember the drive out of my home town. I think I’ve blocked it from my memories. I remember getting into Seattle (we had to drive my dog and the car to my dad who was working on the other side of the continent) and parking up to led Bruce have a walk around. I think we even bought sushi.

The drive across USA was long. It was hot and I distinctly remember the huge number of Harley Davidsons that were on the highway with us. We were camping and driving at the same time that they were going to the annual meet down in Sulis (I think). Mom says they were very helpful and courteous to us. We had problems with our car (1985 Monte Carlo) and they tried to help when we pulled up.

I distinctly remember the flight from New York to England. I cried a lot on the way over. I didn’t want to move and I didn’t know what to expect. The only thing I was looking forward to was British TV, mainly because my mom would actually let me watch it. Unfortunately, we arrived about the same time that Diana died and so for the first couple of weeks all that was on TV was stuff about her.

I don’t often wonder what my life would be like if I stayed in Canada. I hate playing the ‘if only’ game, and I have an awesome life here. I do still want to move back there and live though. The last time I was in my hometown visiting, I went back to my old house and it looked exactly the same. The people my parents sold the house to were still there and they had done so little to it, that it was surreal. I found the experience unsettling, especially when I learnt that my mom had abandoned our cat at the house it had cost them $2000 in vets bills over the years! I’m not even sure that they particularly liked the cat.