JaniceHeck

My Time to Write, but The Cats have The Last Meow!

Archive for the category “Italy”

WPC: Extra, Extra in Venice, Italy

Two of my favorite photos of Venice enhanced by gulls that flew into the setting.  The rain kept the gondolas docked for a short time, but as soon as the sun came back out, excited tourists climbed in for tours of the canals.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra

Venice, Italy. Riding the Water Bus to San Marco Square

On May 28th, My friend Connie and I flew into Aeroporto di Venezia Marco Polo, Venice, Italy on a direct USAir flight from Philadelphia, arriving early in the morning on May 29th. We planned to join a cruise ship the next day, so we had only thirty hours in this glorious city.

The Marco Polo Airport, located on the Italian mainland, is a relatively short distance from Venice. We had several options for going from the airport to Venice: by land (airport bus or taxi) or by sea (water bus or water taxi). We chose the reasonably priced (15 euro = about $20 US) Alilaguna Blue water bus for the hour-long trip to San Marco Square.  (Buy tickets inside the airport terminal and walk outside around the building to the docks…a five-minute walk.) We took this same Alilaguna Blue line from San Marco Square water stop out to the cruise terminal on May 30th for 8 euro (about $10 US).

The weather was remarkably pleasant: warm and sunny with partly cloudy skies.

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Other visitors joined us on the uncrowded and comfortable ride to Venice.

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The most glamorous but most expensive way (110 euros = about $140 US) to get to San Marco Square or other water stops in Venice is to take a water taxi.  The water taxis seem to rule the waterways, and our water bus slowed down to ride out the wake of the water taxis each time one raced by going in either direction. The water taxis did look like fun, but we liked the leisurely pace of our water bus. Our ride felt like a grand tour of the waterways with lots to see on the way.

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Along the way, we saw lots of interesting water traffic.

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Our first view of Venice was breathtaking.

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Gondolas waited at the San Marco Square water bus station to take tourists out for a ride along the Grand Canal and other smaller canals.

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The Grand Canal hummed with steady traffic.

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Our hotel was just a few blocks (and two small bridges away) from the San Marco water stop. From this stop, we dragged our suitcases on wheels to our hotel. Alternately, we could have paid a porter to transport our luggage on a hand truck but being independent seemed like more fun.

This next youtube video gives you an idea about how individual tourists get their bags to their hotel in Venice. Of course, if you go to Venice with a tour group and arrange for transfers, the tour managers will have your luggage waiting in your hotel room or your cruise ship room.

And in this next video, Rick Steves gives an overview of his visit to Venice.

For more tips on your visit to Venice check Quick Venice     

I will publish a few more posts on Venice in a few days.

Make Me Smile: Ten Things We Love about Italy

Janice Heck:

Reblogged from Panini Girl. Ten Things We Love about Italy.

Originally posted on Panini Girl:

View original

WANAfriday: Your Favorite (Cat) Quote, Of Course

The WANAfriday prompt this week is to cite your favorite quote, but choosing a favorite quote is like going into an exquisite little Italian bakery and pastry shop in Poggibonsi, Italy, and trying to pick out only one delectable item. (You can read more about that here: Italy: Breakfast (La Prima Colazione) in Poggibonsi, Tuscany, Italy.)

How about a cheesy loaf of bread served with rosemary infused olive oil or a crusty roll flavored with pesto and garlic;

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a crusty, hollow rosetta roll just ready for some butter and jam or thin slices of ham and cheese;

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a deep-crust pizza topped with tomatoes, cheese, and basil;  543

or a limone tarte, carnetto (sweet croissants), la sfogliatella (filled, flaky-layered pastries), crostata di frutta (fruit-filled rustic tarts), tiramisu, an amaretti (small amaretto-flavored cookies).

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Each delectable offering is irresistable and taunting. How can I just choose one? How about a little of this and a little of that. And maybe that other one for later in the morning.

It’s just as bad as going into a gelato shop and having to choose one flavor. Nope, it can’t be done.

241Well, you can try.

gelato-Laura Griffin photo

And choosing a favorite quote is as hard as choosing a favorite kitten from a box of sweetie-pies sitting outside the neighborhood grocery store. Just impossible.

cats in box - kittens
But I must admit, that I do have a few favorite quotes that I toss out from time to time. And wouldn’t you know, most of them are about: cats. Cats and poems about cats make me smile.

T.S. Eliot in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (later to become CATS, the Broadway musical) has some of my favorite lines, starting with:

T.S. Eliot, The Old Possum's Book of Practical CatsThe naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t one of your holiday games.
You may thing at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
. . .
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified.
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his wishers, or cherish his pride?
. . .

There’s more to this delicious cat-naming silliness, but you’ll have to pull it up on Internet yourself.

Royalty, Photo Credit: Elsie the Cat

Royalty, Photo Credit: Elsie the Cat

The Last Meow

How does one name a feline of such obvious royal character and lineage? Now tell me. T.S. Eliot got it right:

But above and beyond there’s still one name left over.
And that is the name that you never will guess;
 The name that no human research can discover-
But the CAT HIMSELF KNOW, and will never confess.

Meow for now. =<^ ; ^>=

Here are some favorite quotes of a few of my WANA112 blogger buddies:

Ellen Gregory reminds you that Your Stories Matter
Cora Ramos shares Four Steps to Writing a Novel
Kim Griffin presents Understanding Life and Ice Cream Happiness

By the way, what have you named the royal king, queen, prince, or princess in your household? And does your cat approve of this earthly name? I’ll write a post next week on the royal names you send to me.

Weekly Photo Challenge. The Sign Says: Attenti Al Gatto

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

cat in italy- attenti al gatto

[Sign in ceramics shop in San Gimignano, Italy]

Maybe this cat is calling a general meeting to discuss world issues like the over abundance of cat-less homes, the ratio of tuna to grain in canned cat food, the lack of cat parks, the need for regulations to control nap interruptions, and many other cat grievances.

Tuscany in Mind – Second Time Around

wana logo

Every Friday, one member of WANA112 posts a prompt for other WANAs to consider. Here’s today’s prompt:

Second Time Around -

Tell us about a book you can read again and again without getting bored — what is it that speaks to you?

Tuscany in Mind: An Anthology edited by Alice Leccese Powers. Vintage Books (Random House), New York, 2005.

I don’t remember how this book came to be in my possession, but it has traveled to Italy and back with me. It is a collection of excerpts from thirty-eight well-known authors  (e.g., James Boswell, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Dickens, Henry James) and lesser-known (to me) authors (e.g., Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kinta Beevor, Penelope Fitzgerald, and Bruce Chatwin).001 (14)

Why would this motley crew of writers write about Tuscany? Because they all lived there or vacationed there at one point in their lives and felt compelled to write about their experiences.

As I arrived in each town in Tuscany, I pulled out Tuscany In Mind and read who-said-what about the local area: Florence, Siena, Pisa, Volterra, Lucca, San Gimignano, Maremma, and other hill towns.

My favorite excerpt in the book, Any Four Women could Rob the Bank of Italy, by Ann Cornelisen, is set in San Felice Val Gufo (not far from Siena).

There, locked away from time, the San Felicians live in a closed society of intermarriage and inoccupation, insulated from life beyond the hills that surround them.

San Felicia is a town where the water tastes “froggy” by the end of the summer, where movies in the creaky old opera house tend to be ignored, and where neighbors watch neighbors through slatted window shutters to gather bits of local news. And don’t you dare get sick in San Felice; go to Siena. That is much wiser!

One day, Caroline, a well-bred Englishwoman, arrives in town. The men ogle. The women shun. The long-established order of things, suddenly fragile, begins to . . . . Well, you can imagine. When Caroline and her friends decide to rob the Bank of Italy in the cause of feminine rights, things get downright interesting.

The excerpt hooked me. I had to know what happened. When I returned home from Italy, I found the well-worn and yellowed book in the cellar of my local library, read it, laughing the whole way through, and then wrote and posted: Italy Reading: Any Four Women Could Rob the Bank of Italy.

Every time I pick up Tuscany in Mind: An Anthology, vivid memories of my own trip through Tuscany flood my mind. My trip was beyond compare, and this book contributed immeasurably to my enjoyment.  The writing in this book is exquisite, even poetic. The rustic Italian vocabulary slips into perfectly formed sentences that flow with energy and flavor. You can see Tuscany; you can hear it, touch it, feel it, and taste it. Read any of these excerpts, and you will start planning your next trip.

Other excerpts in the Tuscany in Mind include stories of romance, food, wine, complex relationships, history, art, architecture, gardens, and so much more. It’s hard to put Tuscany into words, but these writers have done it well and tease you into seeking out and reading their full works. Alice Leccese Powers has done an incredible job selecting and excerpting the best of the best.

Be sure to check these WANA bloggers and their second time around book choices:

Ellen Gregory: The Lions of Al-Rassan
Margaret Miller: On the Beach
Rabia Gale: Howl’s Moving Castle
Linda Adams:  The Beauty of Omniscient Viewpoint
Cora Ramos: Mistress on Synchronicity
Kim Griffin: The Hunger Games
Tami Clayton: Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter Bks, Time Traveler’s Wife, Cabin Pressure
Seth Swanson, Jedi, Elantris, Monster Hunt Intl

The Last Meow

Italians say “Ciao” for “good-bye.” Ciao sounds like chow. Is it time to eat yet?

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Meow for now. Ciao!  =<^;^>=

S is for Stats and Milestones–10,000 Views Milestone! WooHoo

a-to-z-letters-201310,000 views of my blog? Really? How did that happen?

I hadn’t really paid much attention to the stats that WordPress keeps for each blog, not realizing how broad the reach of a blog can be. So in early April, when out of curiosity I clicked on my blog stats, I was surprised shocked to see that my blog had well over 9000 views.

Getting StartedThey laughed

I laughed when several years ago my daughter said, “You ought to start a blog.”

Why on earth would I do that? I laughed.

But once the seed fell out onto the ground, it began to take root and grow, not right away, but over time.

One of my first blog posts was, “They Laughed When I Sat Down at The Piano.” You know, sort of like, “They laughed when I sat down to blog.”

wana imageWANA: We Are Not Alone

I have been blogging for a while now. I muddled around started with a BlogSpot.com blog,  titled GED Writer, in September of 2010, writing about the GED (high school equivalency testing for dropouts) and adult education topics. I realized this was not a hot topic for a blog and decided to think the matter over a bit more.

I tried again with WordPress in December of 2011, finally getting a blog going in January of 2012. I met Kristen Lamb online and began to follow her posts at Writing Warriors. I read her book, We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, and I joined her WANA112 group: 100 writers who wanted to get better at blogging.  Kristen advised us to use our own names as our blog titles because we needed to build name recognition as serious bloggers. She also advised us to branch out and write about multiple interests rather than just write about our primary, more narrow, writing interests.  All of this was great and encouraging advice.

In the process of building my blog, I made lots of new writer friends. Of those 100 original writers in WANA112, 88 of us still keep in touch on Facebook on our closed group page.

And more amazing than that was that I gathered followers, kind readers who left encouraging notes.  I learned a lot from reading their posts, too. Such clever people, I thought. I will always appreciate these early followers. These are the best friends I have never met:

Tami Clayton, Taking Tea in the Kasbah
Elaine Smothers, Wonder in the Wild
emaginette, Shout With Emaginette
Glenda Mills, Meet Me On The Mountain
Barbara Forte Abate, Scribbling Outside The Lines
Judythe Morgan, Voice and Views from The Front Porch
Mike Schulenberg, Realms of Perilous Wonder
Sheila Pierson, Wonderstruck
Ellen V. Gregory, to beyond and back
Jodi Lea Stewart   Walking on Sunshine
Liv Rancourt, Laughter, life and romance under partly sunny skies
Elizabeth Fais, Where the awesome begins
Sara Walpert Foster, Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition
Siri Paulson, everyday enchantments
Linda Adams, Soldier, Storyteller
Sherry Isaac, Psychological Sizzle
Sherri Martin-Hutchins, live wonderstruck
And none of us could get anywhere without advice from Laird Sapir, of Shabby Chic Sarcasm

A to Z Badge 2012 (1)A to Z Challenge, 2012

But I didn’t really get into more serious blogging until the April 2012 A to Z Challenge (to write 26 posts in the month of April). I took the challenge seriously. I decided that if I could do 26 posts in that short a time, I could probably do more. The A to Z format certainly made it easier to come up with ideas.

I finished the 2012 A to Z with a hey,-I-can-do-this-blogging-thing attitude, further reinforcing Kristen Lamb’s yes-you-can-do-it encouragement.

Of course, blogging daily is tricky to do what with all the other commitments in life, so I settled into a doable pattern of two to three blog posts a week and continued through November of 2012 before taking a break because of family health issues. When that 2013 A to Z Challenge flashed around the Internet, I was hooked again!

Topics

In May of 2012, I traveled to Tuscany and Rome in Italy for two weeks with my sister-in-law and two other friends and found many topics to writevilla-Il Cortile del Borgo about there. We rented a villa named Il Borghetto near San Gimignano and wrote about that. We visited other intriguing Italian cities, and I wrote about them: Florence, Lucca, Sienna, Pisa, aother charming towns. We traveled to Rome, and I wrote about our adventures there, staying in an old family-run hotel near Piazza Navona.

After Italy, I returned to Southern New Jersey and wrote about surprising things there: blueberry festivals, derecho (severe wind storm), veggie farms, Relay for Life, Ocean City, and a few other events of interest in my home state. And I added recipes for my favorite foods using “Jersey Fresh” vegetables and fruits.

For the 2013 A to Z Challenge, I have focused more on Writing PLUS Grammar-You-Can-See. Let’s just wait-and-see what comes along next!

Thanks, again, to all my faithful friends and followers. You truly are the best. My blogging adventure has been fun, though I must admit it has had its hours and hours moments of frustration. The learning curve is steep, but it does level off get less steep as you move along. Just keep writing!

***

Here’s a post from Ellen Gregory, a WANA112 friend, on her recent accomplishment of writing 200 posts. It’s so nice to see my blogger friends hit their own milestones. Congratulations, Ellen.

The Last Meow

Of course, kitties have been a big part of my blog. They always have something smart to say. They really don’t care for myTerribly Cute pic...cat attitude grammar posts, but they seem to like the rest of my blog topics. They celebrate with me on our 10,000 views. After all, that means they get 10,000 views, too. No grumpy cats here!

Meow for now.   ={^;^}=

Dining Out: Pizza at Home and Pizza in Italy

Finding good pizza on the Ocean City, NJ, Boardwalk is easy because the competition is fierce.

But many of us have our favorite place: Manco & Manco.

My niece, Lori, who now lives in Sedona, Arizona, managing the Alma de Sedona Inn, asked me to post a picture of Manco & Manco on Facebook. I guess she was a little nostalgic for the ocean breeze, the surf and sand, and the pizzzzzaaaaahhhhh!

Manco & Manco Pizza on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ. Yes, that is a line to get in and sit down. Best bet: buy it by the slice and sit on a Boardwalk bench to eat it.  No waiting.

Next, Lori asked me to post a picture of an M & M pizza that she could put on her refrigerator at work.

Cheese pizza at Manco & Manco

All this talk of pizza reminded me of the wonderful pizza I had in Rome.

Walking near Campo de’ Fiori on a beautiful, sunny, May day, we came to a pizza shop…actually a doorway entrance to a bakery with two standing-only tables outside.

Down this way, around the corner, down an alley…

Come on. We’re getting close. I can smell something delicious. Ah, it must be coming from this doorway…

Marco Forno Roscioli

Antico Forno Marco Roscioli, 34 Via dei Chiavari, Rome, Italy. (Forno means oven.)

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You buy pizza by the inch (al tagio, by the slice) at forno Roscioli. I ordered “this much,” and the attendant cut off four inches of the margherita pizza, cut it in half, folded it over to make it sandwich-like, placed it in on brown waxed paper, and handed it to me. Delicious. Crispy. Flavorful. Hint of basil. Stringy cheese. Outstanding.

Tutto molto buono!

Wait, here comes another pizza hot out of the oven: pizza with tomatoes, ricotta, and fresh basil. Unfortunately, my four inches of margherita pizza had filled me up, and I couldn’t eat any more.

Here comes another: zucchini and cheese pizza. I think we’d better leave this pizza place! It is all too tempting.

Pizza. Now I’m hungry. Maybe I can sweet talk my dear, darling husband into running out for some now while I plan my next trip to Italy.

Dining In: Peasant Chicken from San Gimignano, Italy

A recipe for Chicken with Herb Roasted Tomatoes and Pan Sauce posted by Epicurious (recipe here) reminded me of a delicious Peasant Chicken dinner that I had in San Gimignano, Italy this past May.

Peasant Chicken is similar to Hunter Chicken (a cacciatore), but the unique feature of this dish is that it includes green olives.

Here is my photo of the dish as served in San Gimignano.

I searched the Internet as well as my own vast collection of cookbooks for recipes for peasant chicken and came up with several possibilities.

Epicurean.com has a recipe for Chicken with Green Olives that sounds like the dish that I had. That recipe is here.

I checked The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes and found Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes. Mayes’ recipe uses both black and green olives. I am sure that the recipe varies with regional preferences.

I will try the Frances Mayes’ recipe today and see how my rendition compares to the original in San Gimignano.

Grocery list: Chicken, wine from the Chianti region of Italy, Jersey Fresh cherry tomatoes, broad leaf parsley, black  olives, and green olives. I already have extra-virgin olive oil. Consult the cookbook for exact quantities for these ingredients.

First, oven roast the cherry tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half, season with salt and pepper, and toss in garlic and herbs. Roast for a few hours on low oven heat. Here’s a peek at a bowl of the tomatoes (half the batch).

Now brown the chicken in olive oil and add a bit of chianti. Move the chicken and wine to a baking dish. Cover with a mix of the olives, parsley, and roasted tomatoes. Bake for thirty minutes.

Serve over nests of angel hair pasta or your own favorite pasta.

This is how my dish turned out. It smells so good, and it is delicious. It looks similar to the San Gimignano version, but I think the San Gimignano recipe uses white wine and more olive oil. Regardless, this recipe is definitely a keeper.

Next week, I will try the Epicurean.com recipe and see which dish comes closer to the one Mama made in Italy.

YOUR TURN: Have you tried to duplicate a dish from another country or another area of our country?

Mash-Up: Saturday Sampling of Posts Worthy of Notice

Data: 430,802 bloggers wrote 964,269 posts today on WordPress.Com.  Add all the new posts on Blogger.com, and you have an overwhelming number of blog posts to read.

Who has time to read them all?

Freshly Pressed by WordPress features excellent posts of the last day or so, and mash-ups by individual bloggers help to identify other good ones. Here is a Saturday sampling of my own blogosphere wanderings this week.

Humor: Leave it to Wana112 groupie, Laird Sapir, to find some off-the-wall humorous oddity to write about. In this post, she writes about Party Rats. Read her tongue-in-cheek post to learn how you can use these little critters for night blogging.  http://www.lairdsapir.com/2012/07/lets-party-rats/

Writing: Barbara Forte Abate reviews the true meaning of some common expressions we use in everyday speaking and writing. I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag by telling you which expressions she writes about; just take a look-see for yourself. I think you’ll enjoy reading her comments at http://barbaraforteabate.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/hair-of-the-dog

Luca the Wonder Dog

Dogs: Speaking of “Hair of the Dog,” here’s a post by Cassandra Heck (my stepdaughter) about her dog, Luca. Luca is a comedian in canine wrappings. This 90-pound behemoth wraps his owner and family right around his little toe. He gives lots of love in return, so the trade-off is worth it. Read about him at http://cassandraheck.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/this-crazy-thing-called-luca/

Culture and Literature: Jacqui Talbot, storyteller extraordinaire, writes down memorable Choctaw tales as told to her by her grandfather. This particular tale tells about great waves crashing down on Choctaw land and destroying everything. One survivor, who had predicted a catastropic flood, had built a raft in the mountains and survived. This tale is mesmerizing.  http://justjacqui2.com/2012/07/

Parenting: How do blogs and parenting connect? “Homemadekids” suggests a number of ways bloggers can help parents, from passing on recipes to sharing ideas about how to bring up children to become thoughtful adults.  http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/focus-on-parenting-blogs/

Photos:  I lived near San Francisco for a number of years and always loved going over the Golden Gate Bridge.  Sometimes it was in fog, and sometimes it was in the clear; either way, it was always beautiful. This particular photograph is spectacular. http://ilikephotoblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/golden-gate-bridge-san-francisco/

Travel: “Where’s my backpack?” writes about the Franciscan Monastery of Mount St. Sepulchre in the Brookland neighborhood in northeastern Washington, DC. The Franciscan Order, established in the 12th century, was charged with caring for all Christian shrines in the Holy Land. The buildings and grounds of this monastery, built later to provide “a taste of the Holy Land,” features replicas of those shrines and chapels in the Holy Land.

This monastery is on my list of things to see before I travel (I hope) to Israel in December. “Where’s my backpack?” does a great job giving descriptive detail, historical background, and photos of this site. Read both posts. http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/07/25/catacombs-and-old-byzantium-i/ and http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/07/25/catacombs-and-old-byzantium-ii/

Zucchini Tart (after dinner)

Recipes:  Panini Girl has an obsession with Italy and with food, two of my favorite topics.  Recently she posted a recipe for a tomato tart (July 6, 2012), and this week she put up a recipe for a delicious-looking zucchini tart. I went out today, bought all the ingredients I needed, and made one up for dinner. It’s as delicious as it looks!  The recipe for the zucchini tart was posted on July 26, 2012. Here’s a picture of my attempt.

Recipes: What to do with those extra blueberries? You have more than enough to make my easy-peasie blueberry tart (recipe here), so why not make this blueberry…umm…casserole pie found on the Three Clever Sisters blog on July 26, 2012.  This is a great pie for a big family gathering.

Cats: And finally, no mash-up of mine would ever be complete without the feline connection. Cats just make me happy. Last week on Saturday Silliness, I posted “Where do cats sleep?”  Andmycat.com posted a collection of delightful kitties here:  http://www.andmycat.com/2012/07/todays-featured-kitties-july-27.html

YOUR TURN: What was your favorite blog this week?

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