Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This time last week

This time last week, I was standing at the top of the Duomo in Florence, Italy.

I am normally a big time planner. Planning things is half the fun, as far as I'm concerned. Upcoming vacations usually trigger a need to read every guide book ever published about my destination city. It's tempting to make a schedule of all the stuff I want to do, especially in situations where there is a lot of stuff and a little time.

I've done fairly well in recent years at not giving in to that impulse. I did read guide books about Florence, and I had a small list of things I wanted to do. Climbing il Duomo wasn't on it - I thought it was a silly, touristy thing to do. I will also admit that I may have considered whether I would be able to climb that far without my lungs suing for divorce.

It is definitely a long climb, no two ways about it. You go up and up, and then the stairs change, becoming a tight spiral. You think "oh, making good progress!". Then you climb up and up and up, and you get to a gallery that runs around the inside of the dome, over the main church. Both times I was there at the end of the day, and the church was empty except for a handful of people who were there for the evening service, in progress as we crept around the dome. The ceiling is painted, but there's no way to take in the artwork, because your brain is used to slightly more oxygen than it has at that moment, you're trying to keep moving along a very narrow pathway, and the usher is shushing people so loudly he can probably be heard in Chicago.

Then you climb and climb and climb and climb, and the stairs get narrower and less regular, and even the graffiti dwindles to nothing. I didn't really start to seriously question whether I wanted to keep going until the first time we met people trying to move in the opposite direction. Until you hit the inner gallery, the stairs are separate. Afterwards, people need to squeeze by, which definitely adds to the excitement of the trip.

The last two flights of stairs are something else. They're steep, they're narrow, there isn't a handrail for the last one... if there had been many more flights, I might have chickened out. But suddenly, you're clambering up the last few stairs, and you emerge onto the cupola. The air is fantastic up there, and the light was incredibly beautiful. I was there just before sunset, and the light has this romantic quality that's hard to describe. We went full circle around the dome, looking out at castles on hilltops and narrow roadways in the city, and at green hills and trees and red tile roofs. It was heartbreakingly beautiful, and one of the most memorable moments of the trip.

Climbing the dome wasn't on my list of things to do. I wouldn't have gone, really, except that my husband asked about it, and there was no line. The opportunity presented itself. I think it's my reward for allowing spontaneity.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Playing pretend

Let's just say that my last post was yesterday, ok? Because figuring out how to start up again gracefully has kept me from starting up again for quite some time now, and while Clio is cute, she's not cute enough to be at the top of a blog for a year and a half.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


This is Clio. She's one of our three cats - one of the two that are mine. She'll be eight in June. She's fluffier than any short haired cat has any right to be. She's kind of tall and lanky, and loves to run around. She also has some difficulty keeping her tongue reeled into her mouth. That's very cute, unless you're close enough to smell her breath.

Also? Most annoying cat in the history of the universe. She has recently started playing this game (well, I think it's a game. Let's call it a game so I don't actually kill her) in the middle of the night. It goes like this: Clio gets behind the bedroom door and pushes it, two or three times until it swings closed (not latched). Then she scratches at it. This is the part where Player 2 (someone with opposable thumbs) is supposed to get up and open the door again. If you don't? She'll keep scratching. And scratching. She wore me out at 18 minutes last night, but I've known her to go for nearly an hour before I give up.

When the door opens, she runs out, mrrping. She goes and plays in the living room for a bit, and then comes back and does it again. If I prop the door open, she'll work away at the prop until she can get her game started. It's possible that she thinks this is a fun way to get attention when we're being boring.

Anyone want a cat?

Monday, May 4, 2009


I like to consider myself a good friend. It's definitely on my list of priorities for things to work on, and I think it's one of the most important things to be good at. I think that may be why it's pretty upsetting that I've found myself in a situation where being a good friend, or really a friend at all, is a bad idea.

I had this friend, see. Two friends, really. Perfectly nice people, well meaning, did fun things with me. But they were very very bad for me. Not bad for me in the peer pressure sense or anything, but when I was with them, I got caught up in subjects and ways of thinking that are very negative for me. It didn't seem to matter how hard I tried, or how many times we agreed that we would all try to be slightly more positive. I would spend time with these friends, and end up having to squeeze black guck back out of my brain for the next three days. Even chatting with them over email changes me a bit. I have, reluctantly, come to the conclusion that I need to cut the connection.

This is probably something that happens to everyone, and perhaps the more clueful out there figure it out in middle school. In fact, it may have happened to me before too, and I just didn't notice. I lose track of people from time to time, either through subconscious avoidance or because I'm super lazy about keeping in touch with people.

It's particularly hard on one of the two friends (ex-friends, I guess), who will be having a tough couple of months. I'd really like to stick with her, at least until this hard part is over. If nothing else, ditching her makes me feel like a rotten friend. I can argue self preservation (and in fact I'm arguing it right here), but the fact remains that if I were better at ... well, something, I would be working on being an active part of her life. Someone work out what it is that I need to be better at, so that I can at least beat myself up about something specific.

See? Even blogging about them brings it on. Self defense, I swear it!

Saturday, May 2, 2009


When we were looking for condos to buy last year, I kept checking to see whether there was any place I could grow tomatoes. I'm not saying that I would have rejected a perfect place to live because it lacked a sunny deck or back porch, but I will say that anyone near me got tired of hearing about my non-existent vegetables. That effect was probably squared for anyone who is familiar with my thumbs, which if not black are at least charcoal gray.

The place we ended up with has a sunny back deck, and furthermore the previous owners left behind several big planters, just perfect for tomatoes. (Well, I also thought they'd be perfect for bulbs, and that does not appear to have been true, so what do I know?)

Then today, on my way home from an unrelated errand, I walked past a plant sale in the local park. Plant Sale! Spontaneously, right out of nowhere. And the proceeds went to maintaining the park. Clearly I had a moral obligation to buy something.

May I present my two heirloom tomato plants on the outsides, with lemon basil and cherry tomatoes in the middle? Get a good look, because I planted them when I got home, and I fear their days are numbered.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sometimes what you get isn't what you wanted

Three weeks ago, I signed up for a bi-weekly delivery of vegetables. I was super excited about this. I was so super extra excited about this that I told everyone who would sit still long enough. I checked the website about every eight minutes in case they'd updated the list of what would probably be in the box. I Googled for reviews of the service in case I'd managed to miss one. I thought about vegetables more than is strictly good for anyone.

I have to admit I was disappointed.

Now, this is in no way a negative review of the service itself. Once we've gotten a few more boxes, I'll probably review it in detail and by name (just in case I'm not the only obsessive Googler out there). It's just that my ideas about how it would be to get the box of vegetables didn't pan out. I didn't arrive home to a tidy package, all waiting to be unwrapped and photographed for posterity. My kitchen was still dirty. There were still days when I wanted to eat convenience food rather than cook delicious vegetables. Having organic vegetables delivered to my house didn't manage to change me instantly into a model person, drat the luck.

We got another box today, and I was a little more prepared for the anti-climax. I couldn't quite keep myself from checking the site a lot to find out exactly what would be in the box, so the score is definitely Obsession: 2, Pamela: 0. I got home this week and Josh was in the kitchen spontaneously cooking collard greens. He was excited about them, and they were damn good.

The kitchen could still stand to be a whole lot cleaner, and the odds of me having a peanut butter sandwich for lunch next week are excellent, but I'm starting to see that the produce box might yield some good things. Not the ones I thought I was getting, but things I wouldn't have known how to picture.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Adding to my things to do list

Here's an interesting article from Slate, about what to make (and not make) at home. I've always had a (possibly overly romantic) picture of producing homemade soup stock, jam and bread. But bagels and yoghurt? Never really crossed my mind.

Now, after reading this article, I'm adding "make yoghurt, bagels and granola" to my list of stuff I want to try this summer. I already wanted to eat more yoghurt, so when the quart in the fridge is getting low, I'll replace it with homemade. (I reserve the right to say "yuck" very loudly and never do it again.)

If I have tons of lovely fresh yoghurt to eat, of course we'll need granola to eat with it. So that's also not too hard to imagine doing. The Alton Brown recipe the article refers to has maple syrup, which is expensive, delightful and not my favorite thing, so I may branch out there. But again, this seems pretty easily attainable, and also healthy.

As for the bagels, that's another story. Homemade bagels seem like a once-in-a-while indulgence. Some time in July or August, I'm going to decide to make bagels on a weekend, treat us to smoked salmon and cream cheese, and see what happens.