Travel countdown

Less than a week to go before we leave.  I’m pretty excited.  And close to finishing everything on my list.  I’ve been adding to the list as I thought of things and crossing them off as I happen to get a chance to my items are not really in an particular order.  It has been working for me but you might use a different strategy.

Here are just a few of the details I’ve been completing in recent weeks.

  • Decide the type of trip and a general route plus the number of days in each place.  That is necessary to book your  accommodation.  It also can help identify the best airport.  To help with planning, we spoke to Italian friends and picked up a couple of maps and guide books.  A quick stop at your local or online book seller will give you lots of options. My favourites include DK Eyewitness Travel Guides and the Lonely Planet series.  There are also online resources for any type of traveller or desired experience.
  • Book accommodations. We don’t want to have our trip too structured but decided that we did want to confirm where we are staying. This means thinking about the type of places you want to stay which might be anything from going the hostel route to seeking 5 star luxury – or any combination.   Our preference is for small inns and B&B type settings, preferably with a private bathroom that will allow us easy access to sites and/or public transportation.
  • Make any necessary reservations for sites.  This might mean booking time for some of the common sites.   Our AirBnB host kindly offered to book times for us at the Uffizi and Acadamia in Florence and I used Tickitaly to book a visit to The Last Supper in Milan, which all my research has told me must be done in advance.  Mostly we are planning to explore and wing it but these were on our must-see list so we didn’t want to take chances.
  • Do a practice packing or at the very least, lay out what you think you need to make sure you have everything.  This is especially important if you are planning to go with just a carry-on, as we are (my husband took some convincing on this).  Be sure to check all airline limits if you are doing this.  I originally packed for Air Canada (10 k limit) but luckily check for our connecting airlines, which allow only 8.  We wanted to keep it light because we are staying at several locations and will have to move stuff on the trains.  There are lots of packing guidelines.  I like Rick Steves’ tips.  He includes reminders about documentation and  items that do double duty.  As Rick says, you don’t need to pack for every eventuality – and you never meet someone that says that they wished they had packed more.
  • Make arrangements for things around home.  In our case, that meant finding someone to cat sit and someone to check on the house and grounds. Be sure to leave your itinerary and contact info with anyone keeping an eye on things on the home front so they have a way to reach you if necessary.

That seems like a small list but each part requires some prep and many smaller tasks depending on your unique situation.  Taking the time to consider the details ahead of time leaves you free to go on your adventure with less stress.  It takes some time and research but it is worth it for a smoother trip.  If you are travelling with someone, you might be able to share the load and divide up the tasks.  You might also find that you have different approaches to things but better to have a discussion about any different travel strategies before you go than on the ground at your destination.

Happy travels.  Or should I say Buon viaggio


Wednesday wonder

Not much narrative today.  Just a few images from Fisherman’s Cove, a small village on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore.



Dramatic sky…







…Lovely colours…



… and a sweet little feral cat under the dock.

Imparare l’italiano

Buona sera. Mi chiamo Elisabetta.

We’ve left our trip confirmation a little late to learn too much Italian but we did have lunch with an Italian friend today to have a language lesson.  Through these lunch sessions and online lessons through youtube and other sources, I am collecting some key words and expressions.  Years ago, when I was teaching English as a Second Language, I taught with an American instructor who swore that the only things you needed to know in another language were “Please” “Thank You” “Where is the bathroom” and “I’ll have a beer please” and everything else you could get with English and/or pointing.  Actually, his efforts often turned into quite elaborate charades.  In any case, his synopsis might have been an exaggeration but with the limited time we have, it does make sense to learn a few versatile,  adaptable phrases.  Things like greetings (buona sera or buon giorno), introductions (Mi chiamo  – my name is…  and come stai – how are you), and ways make a request (vorrei … per favore – I would like… please) will go along way to helping us start communicating.  A couple of others that will come in handy for more complex issues are  parla inglese? and Non capisco.

To get us started on the right foot, our friend Roger spent some time with us on pronunciation and encouraged us to try to get comfortable with a basic vocabulary that can be applied in different settings and not to worry about perfect sentences or complex grammatical structure.  He reminded us that the key is to communicate and meet people.  We’re going to work on short conversations and slowly add a few new words or phrases.  So fun.  I wish that there was more time to focus on the language lessons.  Italian is such a musical language.  We’ll do what we can.

I had better get to some more studying. In fact, I think I’ll go watch some of the Giro D’Italia online.  As it happens, the only coverage that I can find is in Italian.  So, if anyone wants to talk to me about bike racing, I might be able to carry on a decent conversation.  I wonder what the chances are of that happening.

Ciao.  A piu tardi.

(see you soon)


Planning an adventure

I’m going to Italy!!!  It is our 15th anniversary so we decided to do something big.  Because our anniversary is in May, I thought that it would be a great chance to catch the Giro d’Italia bike race, which I watch enthusiastically each year despite the difficulty of finding coverage.  Ironically, though that was a big part of the motivation for choosing Italy in the first place, it doesn’t look as though we’ll be able to coordinate any of the race as part of our trip.  We were a little late to make the decision and pull the trigger on the flight and it has been really difficult to find specifics about the best places and strategies for catching the race.  I’m a little disappointed but hard to really be disappointed about a trip to Italy.

We were able to redeem Aeroplan points for booking our flights.  I’ve been working most of the day to research and arrange accommodations.  I am using AirBnB and Expedia (through TD so I can use Visa travel points for some nights bookings).

We’ve decided to fly return to Venice.  We’ll stay our first few nights in Treviso, just outside Venice, at the recommendation of a friend.  From there, Turin – Milan – Siena – Florence – Venice.    At this point, I would probably have skipped Turin & Milan in favour of more time in Tuscany but my husband thinks that we should incorporate some time in the north in case we can still connect with the Giro — which is in the mountains close to Turin while we are in the area.  I’m thinking that with so little time there, I don’t want to be taking too much of our time on a Giro chase but it would be pretty amazing to catch any part of it, even if it is just as the peleton passes at great speeds.

More on the preparation in the coming days.

Capturing wildlife pictures

I had a surprise visitor in my yard yesterday evening.2015-04-17-Backyardguest

I’m lucky to have lots of wildlife show up outside my window but the deer don’t usually get this close.  The lingering snow this year has them wandering outside their usual zones to find tasty tidbits.

I love trying to get pictures of wildlife whether at home or during travels.  If animals are also on your list of interests, you might like some of these tips for catching pets or animals in the wild.

  • Take your time. Try to get the animal in a relaxed state and comfortable surroundings. Since it is hard to get [most] pets to pose, capture them at play or work.
  • Be patient.  Sometimes a slight turn of the head or other movement by the subject will create a more dramatic image.
  • Use natural light when possible. For an indoor shoot, try to have your pet in front of a window with lots of natural available light. Avoid harsh, direct light. Shaded areas or overcast skies work best.
  • If you must use a flash, try to avoid catching the animal looking directly at the light to minimize unnatural (even spooky) “green (or red) eye”.
  • Capture pets playing with other animals or with family members.
  • Shoot wild animals in their natural environment.
  • Zoom in close on faces. Focus on eyes as you would in portrait photography.
  • Vary the distance to get some wide shots to provide context as well as close shots.
  • Try some three quarter angle shots as well as ones from the front.
  • Bracket your exposure, especially with an animal that is very dark or very light.  Take multiple pictures with different settings.
  • Get a new perspective – get down low to their level or shoot from above for a different angle.
  • Consider bringing along an assistant that will hold or call your pet – or distract the wild animal.
  • Do not feed or disturb a wild animal.

I’d love to hear your stories of animal photography triumphs and /or missed opportunities.  Or any tips you have discovered.  Share in the comments.


Trying again

I have been busy with a number of projects — including some renovations around the house and lots of sewing and quilting to clear some items off the to-do list and reduce my stash.

I have also been busily trying to reduce the stuff BUT neglecting to write about it here, though I have been doing some scrapbook pages and journalling, even getting back to writing letters to share some forgotten stories.  I’m trying to bring back letter writing but that is a story for another day.

Unfortunately, in my efforts to restore some of the old traditions, I have failed to nurture my newer efforts and have neglected this blog and other social media outlets.  I’ve decided to try to revisit this  and attempt to make it part of my routine.

I’m not going to immediately jump into daily writings here as that will be unlikely to happen.  Instead, I’m going to aim to ramp up more slowly while I also build other projects.  My goal will be to aim for 2 posts a week with a monthly daily blitz challenge 2 or three times a year.

More soon.  Until then,  a reminder to take action.


Winter wonder

Spring in Nova Scotia.  This is my husband this morning after yet another snow storm w2015-04-07_WinterStorm (13)hen we had to head out for another 2 hour shovelling session.  And yes, it is almost the middle of April.

It has been a long winter and everyone is looking forward to spring. One thing about this kind of winter is EVERYONE has stories to share.

Many of our stories this season seem to have to do with shovelling but I’ve also had lots of chance to snowshoe and cross country ski, sometimes in places where I don’t get the chance.  Last month, I was out with friends snowshoeing on the Chezzetcook Inlet.  It has not frozen enough for that kind of activity in more than 30 years.


What are your stories of this past season?  Have you had lots of snow and ice this year?  Did you travel away – or to- the snow?  How will you share your stories of the season?  Write a comment to tell us about your adventures or challenges – or how you will keep the memories.

Back with new stories

It has been awhile (again). I have been busy with various projects and learning and not keeping up with this blog. Once more caught up in finding a unique or particularly creative and inspirational direction.  perhaps a losing battle and most definitely a recipe for writer`s block.  so, leaving that goal behind to see what happens and what direction evolves –  and whether anyone cares.

Stay tuned.  You know, assuming you got tuned in the first place.


Get your learn on!

I’m no longer on an academic calendar, and don’t have kids starting back-to-school but it is hard not to get caught up in the energy of new beginnings at this time of year.

Kid President has a fun message for those who are headed back.  He may be young but he is wise enough to remind us that we are all teachers and all learners.

Take his advice:  Be More Awesome – and Get Your Learn On!


Back to school memories

Here in Canada, students head back to school this week.   That means it is a perfect time to capture memories of the new beginnings.   Amy at Positively Splendid has a great list of suggestions and printables to try at this time of year in her post 35 Must Try Back To School Ideas.

If you didn’t clear out saved work at the beginning of summer, this is a great time to do that for the last school year.  That the opportunity to prepare for saving the best from the coming year by creating a work portfolio for each student in your family.   Have a box, folder or binder to store work from the year.  Decorate the cover with important identifying details like name, school, grade, teacher’s name and add fun facts like a favourite quote,  tv show or hobby.    This is a great place to gather work samples, journal entries, special writing assignments, notes about special projects or team work, pictures, videos or awards.  Regular review can help to manage the contents and have a record of growth and creativity for each year.