Tuesday, December 14, 2010

10 things I like about Mexico

A recent trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, was the perfect place to escape from the snow-dusted streets of home. There are lots of things I like about Mexico, particularly when it's winter in Canada. Here are the 10 favourites from my recent trip.

1. Frida Kahlo sells everything

Negra Modelo beer with Frida label

2. The beach is beautiful and not just for beach bunnies
Lunch stop at Zamas

3. Skeletons with boobs

Day of the Dead attraction at a tourista shop

4. Bicycle parking in the jungle

At the Mayan ruins of Coba

5. Iguanas and other animals we don't have at home

Iguana at Tulum

6. Really old and historic stuff like Mayan ruins

Chichen Itza: sculls with Temple of Kukulkan (El Castillo) in the background

7. Real tacos and tequila drinks
Fresh lime margarita with achiote shrimp tacos at Zamas

8. Mariachi music and talavera pottery

Talavera pottery frogs playing mariachi music (use your imagination)
9. Brightly coloured buildings

Valladolid, Yucatan
10. Fresh coconuts. Everywhere.

Our home in Playcar

What are your favourite things about Mexico?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Beauty and death

I was saddened to hear of the construction worker who died of his injuries from falling off the Canada Place sails in Vancouver. I watched the workers in August, appearing as ants against the massive white sail structure they were repairing. I have the greatest respect for workers who could do that kind of job so high off the ground, exposed to the elements, and often in plain view of a crowd of tourists. The photos below show the scale of their work. RIP.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mushroom (funghi) memories

I don't know of anyone who has a middle ground position on mushrooms. You either love them or you hate them. I love them.

While digging out dandelions and mushrooms from the garden, thinking I should be making a nice insalata with them, I realized I had no idea how to pick a "safe" mushroom. The backyard mushroom yield reminded me that two years ago we were in Calabria during funghi season.

On our way to Bocchigliero, we stopped for lunch at La Tavernetta, an upscale restaurant outside of Camigliatello Silano, which is a charming ski resort with small shops selling the wonderful old-world foods Nonna Filomena used to make.

La Tavernetta specializes in local foods including fungi Silani. We savoured shaved porcini in olive oil while watching gigantic mushrooms being brought into the restaurant's kitchen.

After a very expensive but fabulous lunch, we returned to the winding road and forests of the Sila. We kept seeing guys smoking cigarettes, leaning against their trucks with a scale and basket on the ground. They were waiting to buy the haul from mushroom harvesters.

We decided to make our own trek into the forest in search of prized mushrooms. It was easy pickings rummaging though leaves and around tree roots. Sadly we had no idea what was edible and what was poisonous. I wished my Uncle Nick was with us.

For me, Uncle Nick is synonymous with mushrooms. One of my fondest childhood food memory is eating his amazing marinated mushrooms. Sadly, Uncle Nick died last month. I will never know his secret and I'm sure I'll never taste mushrooms like that again.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Nonno

Although my Nonno Tony lived into his nineties, he didn't make it as far as today, which marks his 99th birthday. Ninety-nine years.

His mother carried him during the time of cholera epidemics in southern Italy. She was later taken by the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic.

Italy, as a country, was only 50 years old. As was Italian as the official language, an adaptation of the Tuscan dialect, and the language of Dante.

In 1911, L'Inferno, an adaptation of Dante's Inferno was the first full-length Italian feature film ever made. It was a silent film, which wasn't shown in Nonno's town. When he was born, there was no electricity in town. Today, you can watch the YouTube version on your phone.

The world has seen much change since the days of Nonno's youth and life in his small Calabrese town. Today I remember his journey and his life.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What I did on my summer vacation

I've neglected this blog for far too long. If you've come back, I thank you so much for your patience. Now that fall is approaching I will dedicate more time to keeping up to date. In the meantime here are some snippets of things I've seen or done over the past four months, or "what I did on my summer vacation."

On the outskirts of El Paso, I fell in love with fresh fruit popsicles at Flautas y Paleteria Tepalca in Canutillo, Texas. When I say fresh, mmmm, I can't come close to describing how deliciously orgasmic they were. Take a look at the pinons in the creamsicle below; then I went back for mango. This was an unusual discovery due to road work on the Interstate but it will now be a regular stop on my trips to that part of the US.

I saw a sonoran gopher snake and heard coyotes howl in the desert of southern New Mexico.

I found a metal tray decorated with actual hotel stickers. Not a replica. Not massed produced. The real deal. Looks like someone had a better summer vacation than I did, 60 years ago.

I discovered more treasures amongst the wonderful things that were once my Nonna Elvira's. Here's a carefully preserved stencil that she used as a pattern for her cutwork linens.

On a quick trip to Nelson, BC and a lovely walk along the lake, I came across a playground for adults fitted with outdoor fitness equipment. Best of all, t's FREE.

In Vancouver, the BC Place stadium roof deflated and the new retractable roof is under construction.

In keeping with the roof theme, the Canada Place (convention centre) roof is being "rehabilitated." Looks like a hazardous job.

I went to Alaska and saw humpback whales bubble net feeding. A humbling experience.

And, finally, while the weather is still nice, this is my favourite coffee place.

While I'm having my coffee please leave a comment letting me know what you'd like to hear more about.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canada Day 2010

To honour Canada Day I listened to slam poet Shane Koyczan's "We Are More," which millions heard during the opening ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Shane has joined the ranks of hockey and beer commercials in expressing the sentiment of what it means to be Canadian.

Here's an excerpt:

we are cultures strung together

then woven into a tapestry

and the design

is what makes us more

than the sum total of our history

A small part of my tapestry:

Listen to "We Are More" by Shane Koyczan.

Read more of Shane's poem at the Vancouver Sun.

In case you missed it, here's my Canada Day post from 2009.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Nonno Joe & Nonna Filomena married in Bocchigliero (Calabria, Italy) on May 1, 1915. I've been thinking about them a lot as my own parents pass wedding milestones. Here's an excerpt from their wedding registration:

"L'anno millenovecento quindici, il giorno primo del mese

di maggio, alle ore pomeridiane quattro e minuti venti,

in Bocchigliero, nella casa posta in Vico Manca."

Check out this family portrait from their 50th wedding anniversary in Canada.

While Nonno & Nonna are long departed, their descendants gather annually for a cousins' party. The family portrait -- now trying to contain over 100 cousins -- is a staple of the party.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Where have the superheroes gone?

Vancouver and Canada put on a friendly party for the 2010 Winter Olympics. We donned the red mittens, stole enough courage to take public transit, and actually talked to strangers.

In the quiet weeks following the Closing Ceremony, the streets of Vancouver seem deserted. No more flag-waving, no more cow bell, no more outburst of our national anthem. We are slowly recovering from the collective hangover, avoiding the glare of the pink cherry blossoms that came months too early.

I have only one question: where have all the super heroes gone?

Closing Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics

The Closing Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver was held a few hours following the Canadian men's hockey gold medal victory. The closing show was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek poke at Canadiana. It quickly degraded to what one Twitter tweep described as a monster truck rally.

The stereotypes included mounties, lumber jacks, hockey players, floating moose and the now infamous giant inflatable beavers. I'm not sure this is the Canada my Nonnas left Italy for.

Here's a video of the view from our seats at the Closing Ceremony held at BC Place Stadium on Sunday, February 28, 2010.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Virtually here: Winter Olympics, Vancouver 2010

I've put together this post for my friends and family who want to interact with the Olympics but are too far away from Vancouver -- or won't leave the suburbs.

There are oodles of bloggers reporting on the best pavilions and events, so I won't touch those. This is simply a list of things you can do remotely to control a part of what we're experiencing live. Enjoy!

Vectorial Elevation

Part of the Cultural Olympiad, the Vectorial Elevation allows online participants to design the nightly light show over English Bay. Watch the live light show or take control and create the light patterns we'll see.

The Athletes

Wonder how the athletes are experiencing the Olympics? Follow them on Twitter or Facebook to get a look behind the scenes. Check out my list of athletes on Twitter -- it's neither authenticated nor complete but it will give you a conversational view of athletes like US short-track sensation Apolo Ohno and veteran Canadian hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser.

My photo of Apolo Ohno after his silver medal win in the 1500m.

Google Street View on the Slopes

Google used a custom snowmobile to capture these images. It's your turn to take a run on the slopes at Whistler.

Ontario House

The Ontario House pavilion showcases some interesting technology, including a 4D theatre and projected air hockey.

Air hockey projected on the Ontario House floor.

My favourite technology, is the lighting that visitors manipulate via a brain-wave reading headset. Watch as visitors control the lights on three of Canada's most famous landmarks, including Niagara Falls and the Canadian Parliament buildings.

I take control of Parliament. Do you hear that, PM Harper?

Live Cam

LiveCity Yaletown is one of the hot downtown locations for free concerts. Check out the live cam to see the long line-ups or listen to daily concerts.

Alberta's Corb Lund winds up the crowd at LiveCity Yaletown.

Official Channels

For official listings, medal counts and schedules, download Bell's free 2010Guide for iPhone or Blackberry, or check out the official website. For photos, videos and more engagement, become a fan of Vancouver2010 on Facebook.

Watching Live

If you aren't near a TV but have access to a computer, follow the live action on CTV (from North America only).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Granville Street

Granville Street in downtown Vancouver is a pedestrian mall that was a rapid transit construction zone for years and has recently transformed to celebrate LunarFest (Chinese New Year is on February 14th) and the Olympics. The mall is a buzzing crossroad for locals and Olympic visitors.

Here are a few photos from yesterday's stroll along Granville. And yes, it was a beautiful spring-like day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cheering Messages

This message board in front of H-Mart, at the corner of Robson and Seymour Streets, was a clear attraction for visitors and foreign students. Who could resist the call for "Cheering Messages for your country"?

Do you have a message for your country?