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Posted on April 19, 2013 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay7 Comments »

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Yeah, well. You see, Florence is full of statues and stuff. Hence the title of this post!

They are everywhere. If it’s not statues, it’s … well, stuff. Stuff like medieval ironwork randomly stuck in the sides of buildings, ancient wooden doors a mile high, frescoes, paintings, and, of course, architecture.

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But on our first evening in Florence, when we went for a little walk near our hotel, we came across a piazza positively bursting at the seams with statuary.

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It was the Piazza Della Signoria, which turned out to be quite famous and has a copy of David in it, and everything. Actually, this is where the original David once stood, so it’s kind of fitting to find him (or one of him) there now.

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Oddly, I didn’t take a picture of David, or of the Rape of the Sabine Women which is also in the piazza and is, in fact, the original statue and not a copy at all. I don’t know why I omitted these, but it was possibly because we were only passing through on our first evening and I was kind of fascinated by Neptune and his extensive entourage of mythical beings.

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Incidentally, the Neptune statue was done by a chap called Bartolomeo Ammannati. Michaelangelo, a contemporary of his, was said to have been totally unimpressed and to have said “Ammannati, Ammanato, che bell’ marmo hai rovinato!” which roughly translated means “Oh dear, Ammannati, what a beautiful piece of marble you’ve gone and ruined’.

I’m not sure I entirely agree with S. Buonarotti*. I mean, just look at the work in those horses up there! And the beautiful way the different types of marble are used there to make them appear different colours. I rather like the ‘dapple grey’ effect, myself.

There’s an enormous guy on a horse in the piazza, too, which I didn’t photograph – I think he’s Cosimo I, one of the Medici. As it happens, it’s a real shame that I didn’t photograph ‘Copy David’ since you are not allowed to photograph the real thing in Galleria Dell’Academie.

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Still, I did get a few nice pictures from the Ponte Vecchio. It’s a lovely, old bridge, lined with buildings which I imagine were little houses at one time, but are sadly now – almost all of them – tourist-trap jewellers. It was fun to walk over it and back, though, and take some pictures of the river Arno.

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As to Cosimo, Copy David and the Rapine of the Sabine Women .. oh well. I suppose it means we’ll just have to go back!

* Signor Michaelangelo Buonarotti

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I’ve had lots of reasons to be happy in the last couple of weeks.  I mean, going to Italy was a BIG reason to be happy, so it doesn’t really qualify to be worthy of a place here, but maybe one or two of the things that happened while we were there can count.

For instance, up at the top you will see a recipe.  It’s written in Italian, as you can see, and it’s for a chocolate and pear cake, which also contains ricotta.  As you can imagine, it is rich, and extremely good!  You see, we met up with some lovely friends in Italy, and U cooked us a wonderful dinner, every night for three nights straight. One dessert which appeared on two of those occasions was the Torta Pere e Ricotta con Cioccolato, which henceforth shall be known as ‘Umberto’s Cake’.

So I’ve bought eggs and ‘OO’ flour, and since I already have dark chocolate in my store cupboard and pears in my fruit dish, it’s only a matter of time before I shall be enjoying it once again.  Mmmm!

I’m planning a whole book full of his delicious recipes just as soon as I can persuade him to part with them.  I have previously acquired the recipe for what we now call ‘Risotto Genovese’ (a delight composed of arborio rice, radicchio, white wine, chicken broth and stracchino cheese), and a type of involtini of pork and aubergine.

I’m very happy to report that Mr T, the unfortunate greyhound who was whacked over the head by the person he trusted, is recovering so beautifully that it’s hard to believe what happened to him so recently, and also that Brambleberry has raised more than enough money to pay his bills, thanks to the generosity of the public – including some readers of this blog and many, many greyhound owners, some of whom do not even live in England.  Here are a few pictures I took when I went to see Mr T the other day, and if they don’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.

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The yet-to-be-born twins that my almost-daughter-in-law (B) is expecting are doing well and now weigh over seven pounds between them according to the last scan, and I am really enjoying crocheting little things for them.  My latest effort is this little carrying blanket in lilac:

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Just the colour makes me happy!

We did buy some embroidered bibs for them in Italy, because I simply couldn’t resist them.  They are already with the expectant Mum, and I completely forgot to take pictures of them, so I’ll have to see if she’ll do that for me so I can add them later.

Lastly, one thing that made me very happy this week was picking up my beloved dogs.  Here’s Jeffie, on the alert for any more unsettling changes, but actually looking really quite blissfully content, bless him. Dogs really know how to be happy and appreciate small things.

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If you want to join in and tell us what made you happy this week, just copy this little badge:

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and write your own little ‘How to be HAPPY!’ post, then link back here.

You see, it’s my belief that the things that make us happy people or unhappy people are not the big events, but the accumulation of little things. You just have to develop the habit of noticing them.

Isn’t that so?  Yes, it is.  Off you go and make a start, right now!

 

 

 

Posted on April 16, 2013 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay13 Comments »

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I’m back! And just look where I’ve been!

Yes, I’ve been away for a short holiday to Italy, where things are beautiful even in the rain (which it did, for a couple of days before the weather cleared) and in any case, it was warmer than it is here in chilly England.

I didn’t tell you all I was going, because quite frankly I don’t think it wise to advertise publicly that you’re going to be away and will be leaving your house empty, even if you do have a monitored alarm system and vigilant neighbours. Our very best deterrent to burglary was, after all, languishing relaxing in kennels at his holiday home and was unable to bark ferociously whenever anyone so much as stood in front of our front door and breathed.  I’ll be going to fetch the hounds home again today and Jeffie can go back to scaring the pants off innocent visitors, and Sid can resume sleeping, but in his usual location, providing back-up only when absolutely necessary.

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I do love Italy.  It’s a great place to visit, particular since we now have some great friends there, and I’m learning the language.  It gives me a good opportunity to practice and improve. I am forced to, actually, since U has learned only 37 words of English (we counted), and he’s already forgotten most of those – except ‘thank you for the pizza’, which for some reason, he always remembers.  My friend and language partner P is also forced to practice her English, since OH’s Italian is only marginally better than U’s English.   He does know ‘Una birra fresca, per favore’, and how to ask for the bill, but then he’s sunk.  I begin to see a common theme here.

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You’ll probably want to know where we went and what we did in Italy.  Well, we began our travels in Pisa, then drove to Florence, and from there up to Genoa, where we spent one night in a very unsatisfactory hotel before relocating to Rapallo which was closer to our friends anyway.   And these last few days at Rapallo, being shown around and taken on trips by P and U have been an absolute delight: blue sky, blue sea, gorgeous scenery and architecture, and best of all great company and wonderful food.

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So, where do I start?  Well, I think for today – since there is so much to do on returning home – I will just leave you with this taster.  Later I will tell you about Florence, the bad hotel in Genoa, and the delightful few days at Rapallo in more detail.  And I will also be getting back to the usual routine: Macro Monday, How to be happy, and even Illustration Friday.

Watch this space!

 

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I don’t know how this happened, I really don’t.  The time has just flown by this week, and I’m late for my own date!

My only excuse is that since standing out in the cold for two days, my fibromyalgia has flared up again and I haven’t been sleeping very well (it’s just part of my life now, that I can’t overdo things without pay-back), but that’s OK, because it brings me neatly to the first thing which has brought me pleasure this week: the ‘Sleep Pillow‘ app on my iPhone.

Actually, that’s two things, because I recently discovered the iHorn, which is a neat and inexpensive little gadget which makes your iPhone stand up on a flat surface, and also amplifies it without a power source (if you have an iPhone, check it out – it really works)!

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If I’m lying in bed unable to stop my mind whirring along at 90 miles an hour, or I simply can’t physically relax my muscles without them knotting themselves up again when I’m not looking, I turn on this little gem and listen to the soothing sounds of whale song* or waves gently lapping against a silent boat.

If I get bored with that, I can pretend I’m in a train (but one without the annoying commuters), in a meadow (with no annoying farm machinery or traffic), or in any one of several dozen other situations – including lying in perfect peace under a ceiling fan or being driven along in the rain, complete with the sound of windscreen wipers rhythmically sweeping the glass from side to side – many of these sounds are rhythmic or monotonous, because that is the kind of sound which soothes and turns off busy minds.

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Can’t find anything you like?  Well, fine.  Mix them!  My current favourite is whale song mixed with some kind of Tibetan monastic ‘music’, but if I chose, I could have a waterfall in my aeroplane, or a vacuum cleaner in a rainforest with a side order of purring cat.

And, also on the subject of soothing things, I have discovered a new herbal tea!  This one is fennel – pure and simple – just fennel seeds in a teabag.

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I’ve enjoyed the taste of fennel for a long time, in the form of Crosta & Mollica Tarallini, which are an English version of an Italian snack.  Just wheat flour, olive oil, white wine and fennel seeds – delightful crunchy goodness.  And they’re oven-baked, so they’re not all greasy, which is nice.  Anyway, I’ve discovered that fennel tea at the end of the day is a beautiful thing.  Smells wonderful, too.

Oooh, and there was this:

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Isn’t it loooovely?  It’s made from the good stuff.  Montezuma high-cocoa-content dark chocolate, with a white chocolate ‘fried egg’ stuck to the front.  And it’s going to take me quite some time to munch my way through that.

If you want to join in and tell us what made you happy this week, just copy this little badge:

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and write your own little ‘How to be HAPPY!’ post, then link back here.

You see, it’s my belief that the things that make us happy people or unhappy people are not the big events, but the accumulation of little things. You just have to develop the habit of noticing them.

Isn’t that so?  Yes, it is.  Off you go and make a start, right now!

* Quite a lot of whale song is erratic, screechy and loud, but the whale song on the Sleep Pillow app is all slow, soft whoops which undulate nicely up and down the scale.  I guess it depends on the species.

Yes, I know it’s a porpoise in my photo, but it’s the nearest thing I had to a whale in my files and it’s a beautifully soothing picture, doncha think?