Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Good Intentions

I had grand plans to finish the half-written post recapping the merry month of April. But I couldn't bring myself to pay the overpriced charge to use the airline's wifi, and last night all I wanted to do was go to bed. I've written about jet lag before, but I am currently disrupted by more hours than usual.

As far as my body knew, I had stayed up all night only getting about one hour of sleep. I have done that in the past, although not too many times and I was a lot younger. And when I stayed awake all night, it was a lot more fun than sitting in an airline seat, going through customs and then sitting some more.

So, I went to bed. You can expect that post on April tomorrow. I'll work on it in between naps.

PS I wrote this when I got home last in order to publish it this morning, but was so tired, I forgot to schedule it to post this morning at six am. Oh, well. Here it is.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Flying Home

Our Italian holiday has come to a close and we are currently heading home. I'm both sorry for the end of the trip and happy to be anticipating sleeping in my own bed. I will miss my family members and our adventures.

Some random thoughts, definitely not the final ones on our travels:

Don't leave your gondola ride to the last day of your vacation, because it might be rainy and cold and you might be too tired and the gondola will remain unchecked on your bucket list.

Make suggestions, but don't set anything in stone.

If you have more time, try to get out of the cities and into the countryside because it looked really beautiful from the train windows.

Ask for help. The Italians we met all bent over backwards to help us, from joyfully assisting my mother navigate the inaccessible to calling a giant taxi to get us and all our luggage plus a walker and a broken wheelchair to the train station.  We owe them all a big thank you.

And if you try to avoid a time when it might be crowded, like Easter in Rome, make sure that you don't accidentally arrive instead during a time when it might be even more crowded, like the never-before, maybe never-again, canonization of two very popular Popes.  Three million people in Rome had an effect.

But most of all, go! Do the best planning you can, deal with the broken wheelchairs and millions of people, and have a memorable time!

Monday, April 28, 2014

According to Rick . . .

. . . Rick Steves, that is.

Like many other English-speaking travelers, we rely on Rick Steve's advice on what to see, where to eat, and how much not to tip. 

We've read his books many times, both before and during visits to museums and other sites. We quote him quite frequently. In fact, I've heard the title of this post more times than I would have imagined before I took this trip.

And for the most part, we have found his information quite accurate and therefore valuable. However, we have encountered a few differences of opinion. First of all, we felt Rick severely underrates the Uffizi in Florence. He said that most people breeze through in about an hour, but we stumbled out, dazed after more than four hours. And we didn't leave because we had seen all the art, but because our minds simply couldn't absorb any more. There was one more idea we disagreed with, but I can't remember what is was now, so it must not have been that important.

In addition, Rick recommends eating in real restaurants, where the locals go. Unfortunately, any "real" restaurant that he mentions immediately is filled with tourists, as so many of us read his books and follow his every word.

On the whole, though, I'm grateful for Rick and for the guidance he's given us as we have traveled through Italy. I should probably tell him. If only he read my writing as much as I've read his.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


When we're young, the details of our birthdays are vital to our well-being. What kind of cake, who to invite to the party, and most importantly, how many days until it gets here.

Now that I'm only a kid in my mind, and no longer in fact, birthdays seem to have lost their allure.  I probably shouldn't eat any cake, I don't usually have a party, and most days I can barely remember my age or the date, much less when my birthday falls.

All that being said, yesterday was my birthday. On my 32nd birthday while in the shower, I realized that on that day my age equaled 2 to the fifth power.  I also realized I would never be any number to the fifth power again.

Since that birthday I've paid attention to the mathematical properties of my age, and this year is two to the fourth times three, which isn't bad. However, this year there's a new addition to my thinking about my age.

It's all Oliver Sacks' fault. I recently learned that when he turned eighty, a friend gifted him with a small vial of mercury, because mercury's atomic number is eighty. So I started obsessing about the periodic table of elements.

This coming year corresponds to silver*. I like silver. I can even get myself a gift of silver, either earrings or a necklace. And I have one more thing to think about on my birthday besides cake.

*I wrote this entire post before I looked again at the periodic table and realized that last year was silver and this coming year is cadmium. I know nothing about cadmium. I guess I'll have to learn!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe

Dinnertime choices in Italy.  Life is so difficult!

I'm a little late this morning, but it's better than never. Plus it's the same day, so it still counts!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Life is Unpredictable

I know that I've written it before, but life can really surprise us.  Wednesday night the new aluminum wheelchair bought for this trip shocked us by breaking. Clean through one of the handles, with no chance of repair.

Of course, there's also no chance of getting spare parts for it here in Italy, or so the gentleman at the sanitori assured us. Finding a replacement, whether a rental or a new purchase took up much of yesterday. Or at least the part of yesterday that wasn't taken up by moving from Florence to Rome.

That wonderful man fixed up a rental, gave us directions and said that "they" would be waiting for us. Unfortunately, when we got there, "they" had closed up shop and gone home. I was hot, tired and quite frustrated. We still haven't solved the problem completely. If only I had some rope!

Thursday, April 24, 2014


We've been doing our best to eat gelato in each new city, so that we can compare tastes. So far we have managed it nicely, sometimes eating it more than once a day.

I fear I don't have a sophisticated gelato palate. It all tastes good to me. Last night, though, we had our most expensive gelato yet. If I think about it, I can't quite comprehend that we paid that much. It was as good as the rest, but it did look more amazing in the case. Enjoy the photos and we'll keep enjoying eating gelato.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Leaning Photos

Yesterday we went to Pisa on the train.  It was a good day. Pisa is a lovely town with a medieval wall surrounding it. The wall is being restored, although not when we were there. (When asked when it would be finished, the woman at the tourist information office threw up her hands, and said, "It's Italy!)

We wandered all over town and eventually made it to the Field of Miracles where the crooked tower is located. We ate a picnic lunch on the steps of the Duomo. Earlier, we had fun at a local store buying lots of edible goodies, including salami dolce, which even the vegetarian ate.  

The cathedral was absolutely gorgeous both inside and out, and we contemplated the leaning tower from all sides, except for inside and from the top.

When taking photos, though, I noticed a curious phenomenon. I kept trying to correct the lean by tilting the camera. Even after I realized what I was doing, it was difficult to stop. Here are two attempts.

In fact, the only bad thing about the day was that my youngest traveling companion was feeling sick and by the end of the day had a slight fever. Not fun while traveling, but we hope she recovers soon and that the rest of us continue to be well.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day, one of those odd holidays that most people don't exactly know how to celebrate. I am one of those people. Mostly I'm happy about how beautiful and varied the earth is, how people are trying to do a better job caring for the earth, and especially that I'm still on the earth.

Italy is doing its part to save the earth. Several times we've walked by public recycling bins.  Plus, one of the bins is for organics. Way to go Italia!

Today we go to Pisa.

Due to the time changes, this posted on Monday late, but it is really Tuesday's post.

300 Posts and Beyond!


I can't believe I've written 300 posts! There was at least one day that I wrote two posts, so it hasn't been that many days. Still . . .

Early on I mentioned that I like prime numbers better than those rounded off numbers ending in zero, but I lost track of the primes a long time ago. And 300 is a more fascinating number than I knew.  It's a triangular number, the sum of a pair of twin primes (149 + 151), and the sum of ten consecutive primes (13 + 17 + 19 + 23 + 31 + 37 + 41 + 43 + 47). Thanks Wikipedia!

But enough about my amazing streak of 300. I'm going to write a little bit more about Italy.

It turns out that as light as the iPad is, it's a little fussy about downloading photos, formatting photos, and scheduling posts. So I may resort to adding only one or two photos a day, and posting it at odd times.  Desperate measures and all.  So here are two of my favorite recent photos.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 20, 2014


I hope everyone is having a good Easter Sunday.  My family and I have been in Venice for three days and it is quite the adventure. Although Venice was not built for wheelchairs we have managed fairly well. Here are two favorite photos, the only ones I could successfully upload.

Waiting for a gondola on the Grand Canal

Floor mosaic in the Basilica di San Marco
There were also photos I missed . . . the young girl in a Venetian mask, the ambulance boat going by at high speed, art I wasn't allowed to photograph. Those memories will have to stay in my mind.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Airport Calm

There's a calm that comes over you at the airport. I think it stems from the fact that there's nothing more you can do. As long as you have your ticket and your identification, you're getting on the airplane. If you forgot something, toothpaste, a shirt, your favorite green underwear, oh well. You can't do anything about it now.

Now all you can do is wait. Wait in the security line, wait at the gate, wait to take off. You can play on some sort of electronic device, or read, or just stare off into the distance, but all you can do, you've done.

Considering I'm kind of a last minute packer, and things can get pretty stressful, I welcome the airport calm.

I realized on Wednesday that a significant part of the calm might actually be exhaustion. I went to bed after 11pm and woke up sometime between 4am and 5am, unable to sleep any more. And sleeping on airplanes is so comfortable.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Happy Anniversary, honey!

Big with full am I . . .
          You are de beste, way, way, way . . .
                    On the 18th of April, in Ninety-five;  Hardly a man is now alive . . . 

Nineteen years ago on a rainy day at the town hall in Copenhagen, my honey and I were married. It was a beautiful setting and he was the most handsome man I'd ever seen.

We promised to "love each other through the vicissitudes." (We did look up that word before we made the vow.)  We said "yes" to each other and to a life together. Although we've seen some of those valleys, I remain a very lucky woman.

My honey is intelligent, funny, caring, generous, and respectful. He reads, cooks, does the dishes and the laundry, and knows how to fix things. He loves to ride his bike, take walks, canoe and camp. But the best thing about my husband is that he accepts and loves me as I am.

We're not together on this day, but I wish he were here with me, because I always have a better time when he's around.

OK, he's not perfect. He can be cranky, doesn't love to travel as much as me, and really doesn't like to be told what to do, even when he's asleep. But none of that matters, because we fit well.

Here's to the next nineteen honey! I love you. We can celebrate when I get home, but my gift to you (besides all these nice words) is that you don't have to get me anything!

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Although I don't usually write about my traveling while it's happening, I'm leaving my honey at home to protect  our hearth. So that means you will get the play by play.

I will do my best to post every day, and I have a few posts already lined up, but I am not sure how much wifi access I will have.

I am also not yet as proficient as I want to be at posting on the borrowed iPad.  Although as an experiment, I wrote and posted yesterday's library geek post completely on the small device.

Today I'm en route to Italia, trying to find my way through Schiphol, one of the largest and most confusing airports.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Library Geek

Happy National Library Week!

I love the library. I've been a faithful patron ever since I was a little kid. I have to confess, though, that at some point I had to switch library systems because the fines were getting out of control. Happily, those sorts of transgressions remain in the distant past.

Today I am grateful for the many different entities that sponsor libraries close to my home. Besides my own city and county libraries, I am a faithful customer of at least three neighboring county systems with varying degrees of frequency. 

Libraries are my version of Cheers. They are the place where everybody knows my name. Really. Librarians at three separate branches know me and I know them. Last week, though, I was returning some books at a branch I don't usually go to and something there blew me away!

There's been a new invention that automatically returns books. Almost all the local systems have some version of it. Until last week I've only seen the mouth that accepts my borrowed materials. The nearby windows are all opaque. Except at this branch.

This branch lets you see the wizard behind the curtain. It was the coolest five minutes I've spent in a while. The librarians were laughing at how excited I was. I went back yesterday to take some photos to share. Unfortunately, I didn't bring anything to return, so I didn't get to snap any pics of the wizard in action.

This is the amazing machine. It reads the bar code on the item and some sort of rotating arm directs it to one of three bins. The one closest is for items that stay at this branch. An unseen bin on the opposite side is for items that need to be sent to other branches, and the bin on the end is for the problem children. Other library systems, items on hold, kid's books with food stains, I don't know what all. 

Luckily, librarians are still needed in this new scenario, but they are doing less sorting and hopefully more interacting with the public. The fact that I am so delighted with this glimpse of the inner workings of my local library is what makes me a geek.

Don't even get me started on how absolutely sensational Carnegie libraries are!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Alvin Langdon Coburn/Getty Images
Creativity takes courage.
                                 Henri Matisse

A couple of weeks ago I promised you my thoughts on a Matisse exhibition I attended. Apparently, I lied about when I would post it, because I did not write about it the next day. Sorry about that, but great art needs to be processed for longer than just a day. (At least that's my story.)

The show was very impressive. So much so that I am thinking about going again. Previous to attending, I was not particularly a Matisse fan. Certainly I had heard of him, and knew that he was an important artist. But a friend wanted to go, and I was a museum member, which meant we got in free. And I'm always up for looking at art.

I was completely blown away. Some of the art seemed familiar, although much of it was completely new to me. I had no idea how much art Matisse produced.

There were sketches, prints, paintings, sculptures, and collages from the different periods of his life. Since he was an artist for over sixty years, there was a lot of variety. 

And within each medium, there was also a wide range of expression. For example, he painted landscapes, portraits, nudes, still lifes, and more I don't even know how to classify. The exhibition clearly showed the progression of his artistic vision throughout his life.

In addition, Matisse wrote. He illustrated and wote the text for the book Jazz, which was not about jazz at all. He wrote extensively about the creative process, and I look forward to reading more of his thoughts.

Matisse never gave up creating. If he was having trouble with one medium, he worked in another for a whille. As he got older and it was impossible for him to stand long enough to paint, he started doing collages. He called it drawing with scissors.

La Gerbe, one of Matisse's last works, a cutout
I can only hope to use Matisse as an example and continue to create into my eighties, if I'm lucky to live that long.

Monday, April 14, 2014

IPad Loan

Since I'm going to Italy in a few days, I've been looking for an alternative to taking my heavy computer along with me. I thought about buying an iPad
(I am an Apple girl, after all). But after talking with a Mac genius for about an hour about the many options, I went home with a bit of a headache, but no iPad.

So I put out the call on Facebook and email for a loan. Although from what I have heard once you have an iPad, you never want to give it up, nonetheless, I hoped to get lucky. And I did!

A wonderful friend from my book club let me borrow her first generation iPad and that's what I'm currently writing this post on.

However, there were more than a few problems. First the keyboard doesn't have any arrows to assist in navigating, which makes it extremely difficult to move around in the text. The entire screen of the iPad is the mouse, but my fingers are way too fat to make an acceptable cursor. 

And the iPad somehow has a different interface with blogspot than my computer, leaving me unable to figure out how to upload any photos, either my own or one off the superhighway. In short, I was exhausted and getting cranky, so I gave up. (When I moved back to typing on my computer, I started writing in italics.)

I must admit, the iPad screen is quite small and I could see my hands becoming quite cramped. I just weighed both devices and the computer weighs 3.25 lbs more than the iPad. I'm not sure that's enough to sway me to the iPad.

I've already taken the iPad to the genius bar once for a half hour tutorial and if I have time before I leave, I may go again and see if the geniuses can help me figure out the photo dilemma. Because if I can't upload and show you any of my photos in Italy, the iPad may not be useful to me.

I'll try again tomorrow.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Brighter photos

A month or two ago, I wrote about the fact that my camera was ailing. My plan was to go to the camera store, find out if repair was possible (it wasn't), and buy a new camera. That all happened last week and today I put together my new camera.

Well, not quite put together. That makes it sound like I assembled it, which I did not. But I did need to put in the battery and some sort of card for the camera to store photos on. In addition, the camera came with various cords and wires, for as yet unknown purposes.

The box also has a CD instead of a manual. I had better put in into the computer and start reading, because, I only have a few days before my trip to figure out how to use this thing. It can take videos, has a pop-up flash, and more mysterious symbols and dials than I know what to do with.

I was, however, immediately able to take photos of our dinner last night. That bodes well for this camera being mostly idiot-proof. Or in this case, me-proof. Here is a lovely photo of my honey's delicious sauteed green beans served on our Warren MacKenzie platter.

Life is good.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Clean Sheets

It's so wonderful to climb into a bed with clean sheets.  Flannel for warmth in the winter and cotton to stay cool in the summer months. They feel crisp, like a new beginning.

When I was a child, I think we changed our sheets every week. It doesn't currently happen that often in my house, but I am thinking about returning to that schedule. Last night I came home late from dinner and a fire at a friend's house, and there was nothing quite so enjoyable as being surrounded by clean flannel sheets.

Simple pleasures.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Tale of Two Beginnings

Sometimes when you write, you realize that everything you just wrote is not what you needed to write. I'm not sure that makes sense, but I'll try to explain.

Recently I decided to change the opening scene of my novel. It seemed like the eighteenth birthday of the main character was a good place to start. Lots of important things happen on that day, and it would cut out much of the back story that I tend to overwrite. (I'll plug in the back story in small bits scattered throughout the novel.)

So I started the writing with Catherine, my main character, waking up. She gets dressed, goes downstairs, talks with the cook of the house, walks down the hill, gets a bus to the beach. (At this point, I know I need to do more research to find out whether she would have taken a bus, train, streetcar, omnibus, or horse and cart to get to her destination.)

While on the bus she talks to the conductor, is serenaded by two young drunk bucks coming back from a night on the town, and finally reaches her destination, the beach. As I finish writing all this, I realize that the book should start with her already at the beach, and all those words about getting there are more unnecessary back story.

But at this point, some facts push forward from the little research I have done. The Sutro Baths are close to where Catherine would be walking on the beach. I immediately imagined an alternative opening with her swimming in one of the salt water pools on her birthday.

So, there is my current dilemma. Here are the two opening paragraphs which I have quickly crafted. I submit both to you, my faithful readers, and you can tell me which one would make you want to read further.

Beginning Number One:

Catherine unlaced her high boots and removed her stockings. She loved to walk barefoot in the sand, to feel it squish between her toes. The difference in the feeling between the dry sand and the slightly wet sand at the water's edge made her feel like she was heading somewhere important, even if it was only closer to the ocean. She had come out to see the ocean shortly after arriving in San Francisco, and she returned on most of her days off. She would walk along the shore and imagine her life. Today she was imagining what might happen at dinner, and hoping Edward would propose. Since she wasn't paying attention, a wave came up and caught her, getting the bottom of her dress wet. Catherine was glad she hadn't worn her new dress. That was for later tonight.

Beginning Number Two:

Catherine's head emerged from the saltwater, slicing through the surface into the air. She breathed in deeply, loving the damp murky scent of the Sutro Baths. She had hopscotched from pool to pool, the water getting progressively cooler each time. Now she was in her favorite element, the coldest of the seven salt water pools. She had not known that she had loved swimming while growing up on the plains of Nebraska. There had been nothing like this there. Now Catherine could think of no better way to start the celebration of her eighteenth birthday. Later in the day she would see Edward for dinner, and she hoped that he would propose, and they could begin a new life together. But right now, she grinned at the light streaming in the giant windows and slipped beneath the water to once again feel free.

P.S. By the way, be gentle, as these are both hot off the press, with minimum revision.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Back in action . . .

. . . and raring to go!

After being upright yet comatose on Tuesday, I woke up yesterday feeling like an actual person. And more than just a regular person, a person with energy!

I woke up early, showered right away, ate breakfast, worked around the house a little and then went off to work at the office.  And when I got there I was very efficient.  I worked on a new beginning for my novel, sent emails, made some phone calls and just generally got lots of work done.

However, about 3pm I started to crash.  It became clear that one good night's sleep isn't quite enough to make up for a really bad one.  So I came on home, stopping at the YWCA to swim and hot tub and getting more and more tired.

I managed to stay awake long enough to attend my last live chat of my online writing class, although I was fading by the end. So I took myself off to bed to get another good night's sleep, hoping I would hopping again this morning.

And I am.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Airbnb to the rescue!

The nuns rejected our reservation request.  It turns out that the good monks and nuns of Italy do not spend all their time on their smartyphones, constantly updating the availability of their monasteries and convents. So, when the website said that there was room at the inn, there wasn't.

At first, I read the email I received to inform us of our failure to make a reservation connection incorrectly.  I thought it said that the weekend after Easter was a busy one in Rome because it was the anniversary of the date John Paul II became Pope.  And I wondered, wasn't he at least two popes ago? Why are they still celebrating that?

In fact, what the response said was that April 27th is the canonisation date of Pope John Paul II. We will be in Rome on the day when he is declared a saint. I don't know what this process involves, but apparently many people need to be in Rome for the occasion. According to a news report, many of those people will be Polish.

But knowing the true story didn't help us find a place to stay. Just the opposite, of course. So I got on my trusty computer and scouted around airbnb, that miraculous website that had already found us a place to stay in Venice.

I needed to find a place to stay for the four of us that wasn't too expensive, didn't have too many stairs, and was convenient to the center. There were some places, but most of the hosts wrote back to say that their apartment wasn't available for our dates. Finally someone wrote back with an available apartment that had two double beds and only 10 stairs to the elevator.

The more I looked at the photos of the apartment, though, the more I hesitated. As far as I could tell, besides the bathroom, there were only two rooms, the room that barely fit two double beds and a very small kitchen with a tiny table and four chairs. Nowhere to hang out.

Unfortunately, on Monday evening, it seemed like the only possibility. Before I went to bed, however, I decided to give it one last giant try. I went through every apartment in Rome listed on the site, which numbered ~250. I rejected some immediately for being too small or too far out, or being on the fifth floor with no elevator.

To every other prospect, I sent a short email asking about availability and stating what I was looking for. I was determined that if I had to accept an apartment I didn't really want, I could say that I had tried absolutely everything! I must have sent over one hundred emails out and it was only at 1:20am when I accidentally expanded the search area that I gave up and went to bed.

When I woke up this morning after sleeping for about four and a half hours, I checked the inbox for responses. There were quite a few. The way airbnb sets up your inbox sorted the emails into four basic categories. First were the emails that had not been answered. Second was a bunch that had declined my request, for lack of availability or some other reason.  The third group was from hosts who had responded to my questions.

Lastly, there were the golden tickets. These are responses that pre-approved my request. In other words, if I wanted any of these apartments, all I had to do was click a button and it was done. There were eight of these wonderful things! So now I had to sort all of this information to figure out the best place for my group to spend our time in Rome.

I started by looking at all the golden tickets and deciding which one I liked best. After that I had to sort through the answers to my questions and decide if any of those places were better than my favorite pre-approved flat. If they were, I would have to formally request to book their apartment and wait up to 24 hours for the hosts to respond.

It was not easy. Weighing price, sofa beds versus bedrooms, location, amount of steps, and just my own general feel from the photos and description. After some time, I decided my first pre-approved choice was the one.  So I pushed the button. And we had a place to stay in Rome. Sweet!

There's only one bedroom and I'll be sleeping on a sofa bed, but the living room is large.  It's not too expensive and is directly north of Vatican City. The building has an elevator and there are no additional steps.

I can't wait to get to Rome for the big saintly Papal party!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bike Riding Weather

There are some crazies who ride their bicycles all winter long, no matter the snowfall or freezing temperature. The rest of us sensible people make our riding decisions based on the weather. Personally, in the fall I stop riding when it goes below 20° Fahrenheit.  In the spring, however, I am a lot more demanding.

The ice must be gone from the streets. It has to be warm, not just not cold. The wind has to be light. Conditions must be just right. And today was the perfect day! Luckily for me, in anticipation of just such a happy event, my honey tuned up my bicycle for me.

I rode my bike on some errands, probably not more than a mile. But, boy, did it feel good to not take the car, and get everywhere that much faster than walking. And no jacket was needed, so that made the ride extra special.

I just need to watch out for the potholes!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Of Convents and Monasteries

There was a convent across the street from the Catholic elementary school I attended. The nuns lived there.  I'm sure it was a pleasant place to live, although from the two visits I remember, the rooms were dark. Maybe it only seemed that way to my childish imagination.

That building is no longer a convent, as there aren't enough nuns to fill it up. The same problem may be true in Italy, but they appear to have solved it by opening up their convents to visitors. And I'm trying to stay in one.

Here is a photo of the courtyard of a convent in Rome where my family and I will hopefully stay. I have submitted our travel plan to the website, and am just waiting to hear back from them.

The convent has all the modern conveniences including an elevator, wi-fi and even a terrace on the roof! They provide breakfast and although no mass is said at the convent, a chapel is available for worship and quiet contemplation.

Apparently you could cross Italy staying only at convents and monasteries the entire way. I had no idea! Thankfully my sister was well informed.

The only hiccup that might occur is that this particular convent has a 11pm curfew. Although some of the establishments so not have a curfew, this one does.  I hope that it doesn't prove an inconvenience to us.

No late night discos for us. Too bad!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April Snowstorm

For my readers who do not dwell in my corner of the world, on Friday it snowed over six inches here. A late season snowstorm is different from an early season snowstorm. The bad news is that it's still winter, but the good news is that it's gone much sooner.

The storm had been expected for a number of days, so it gave us all time to plan for it.  It snowed throughout the night and into the morning, but by noon, as you can see, the sun was shining and everything was melting.

It was a heavy, wet snow, perfect for snowmen and snowballs.  Difficult to shovel, but once the snow was off your sidewalk, everything dried nicely. No snow emergencies were called by any of the nearby localities, because no plowing was needed.

But everyone is pretty ready for winter to be over.  The storm made us all rather grumpy. Even my honey, who has ridden his bicycle to work on -35° days, stayed home for the morning. Many stayed home for the morning.

We know spring is coming though. We're planning our first barbecue for tonight. And rumor has it that it could get up to the mid-sixties on Wednesday!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ethiopian Food

I haven't had Ethiopian food in a long time, so I was especially excited to go out to a new place not too far from our house. Some friends called at 6pm and as we (my honey) hadn't quite started dinner yet, we spontaneously went out to eat.

Uploaded onto Yelp by When D.
The food was so good that we had to order an additional vegetarian combo, because we ate up the first one and were still hungry. My favorite is the carrot, cabbage, and potato dish, although the greens and beans were good, too. And, of course, I love the injera.

The most memorable part of the evening was not the food however. We realized about halfway through our meal that we had stumbled upon a poetry session. It may have been a poetry slam, or maybe a poetry open mic, I'm not sure about the nuances of each of those. In any case, people got up and read their poems into the microphone.

Some of the poems were rapped, others more spoken. Several were quite moving and we definitely laughed at times. There was some structure in the madness, as there was a video camera and an MC, but I don't really know how it all worked.

Are they at this restaurant every Friday night? Or do this group roam from place to place?  How often do they meet? How do you sign up to read your poetry? Can anyone do it? I know the answers to none of these questions.

What I do know is that it made a delightful evening more delightful, hearing young people read their poetry around the themes of the night, home and memory. Quite a diverse crowd with varied voices, it made me happy.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Pain sucks . . .

 . . .  so does getting older.

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One of my wonderful spring break activities was to go for a long walk with friends at a local park.  The day was sunny but cold.  We walked through the woods, alongside the river, trudged through snow, water and a bit of ice.

It was a great afternoon. We saw a dead fish in the river (the eleven-year old boy loved that!) plus met a stocky bull mastiff named Bud, and we got a little lost trying to find the parking lot again.

I must have overdone it because my back has been aching ever since. It doesn't hurt when I sit or lay down, just when I try to move. I feel very, very old. I can barely straighten up, although if I am moving around for a while, it all loosens up and doesn't hurt too badly.

Unfortunately, it starts all over again when I get up from sitting down. So, I'm moving slow and hoping that it will improve today.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


I spend at least an hour a day listening to the sound of the PBS Newshour broadcasting in the next room. My honey doesn't miss a show if he can help it. Often I take that opportunity to work on writing this blog.

Last night I listened from the living room and wrote. It was one of the evenings when the show was being watched after the fact, when my honey speeds up the playback and everyone talks unnaturally fast.

Since I'm listening with half an ear, I can decide whether I'm interested in the stories they are airing or not.  Often I wander into the red room (where our big ass television resides) to watch author interviews or reports on education.

The biggest problem is that sometimes the show lives up to our nickname for it, and my honey falls asleep on the couch while the Snoozehour plays on. That means that I have to yell "You awake?" several times during the hour. If there's no answer, I have to try and convince my honey to get up and go sleep in bed.

Listening from a distance is the best of both worlds. I don't have to actually watch the news, but I can catch anything I'm remotely interested, and I stay minimally informed. Not a bad deal.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring Break Fun

It's spring break week for the school district I am currently not working for. That means that there are no substitute jobs for me AND many of my friends who have stayed home are coming out of the woodwork to have some spring break fun.

Not traditional almost naked beach spring break fun. More like we're probably going to have snow but we're determined to get outside and see our friends anyway spring break fun.

Yesterday I went with a friend to a Matisse exhibit at a local museum and had a blast. I know that most people wouldn't think wandering around a museum would be so entertaining, but it was. More about Matisse tomorrow, but he was a cool dude and it was neat to see his growth as an artist.

After all the art we ate some amazing hamburgers and drank beer and just talked and talked. Even when she was dropping me off at home, we were still talking. It was a pretty great day.

Today I'm meeting up with another friend and her son, neither of whom I see enough. I don't know what we're going to do, but I imagine it will be active (seeing as how the snow isn't supposed to arrive until tonight.)

More friend fun happens tomorrow. What will we do? Lunch? Hiking? A movie? We're going to let the weather dictate what happens. Then on Friday . . . you get the idea. It's clear I'm not going to get much writing done this week and I'm ok with that. I'll try and fit it in around the edges of all this spring break fun.

I hope everybody had a good April Fool's Day yesterday and you figured out that I was just joking about the lottery. I know for a fact that I managed to fool at least two of you, and we'll see if anyone else mentions my "win" to me. Fun, fun, fun!