Sunday, December 30, 2007


Yesterday was a full day of work. The city is filling up with visitors for the New Year. When I left the apartment at 9am, it was a balmy 27 degrees and when I returned in the evening at 730pm, it was an even balmier 32! I had 4 check-ins yesterday and while that doesnt sound like alot, you have to add in the time for meeting, greeting, waiting, explaining, walking, etc. All that to say I slept well last night.

But I had a thought yesterday that has stuck with me and was the first thing I thought of when I awoke this morning. As much as I realize that I am so lucky and blessed to be living in this city, I too sometimes lose sight of it when I am going from A to B. Keeping that childlike wonder isnt always the easiest thing to do.

As I was waiting for my second checkin, I had some time to view the scenery that I often pass by. I saw beauty that I hadnt seen before and I had some great moments spent with the local hospital cat! My clients arrived and we started off toward their apartment. I heard the accent but it wasnt until we were filling out the contract that I realized they were Russian. It dawned on me that these are the first Russians I have ever met in my life. You dont really come across many in the deserts of Arizona!

While it may not seem like such a big deal, I am still awestruck this morning that I was sitting in Venice and talking to a native Russian family (in English of course, not Russian!). Thats something that just doesnt happen to a person everyday. Its events and memories like that I hope I never lose sight of.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Years Eve in Venice

Well, in just a few days, another year will be ending. It will be my second time in Venice in as many years. Last year I 'experienced' New Years Eve and really dont want to see that again. I dont know if it was a regular theme but there were thousands of free bottles of champagne given out to the revelers in St. Marks Square and at the stroke of midnight, everyone started throwing their bottles on the was like a war zone! What a waste of alot of champagne to boot!

This year, the theme is called LoVe and according to Bongiorno Venezia, 'it will doubtless be something very original, since lots of couples will be involved in kissing each other in St. Mark's Square, from 10:45 p.m. until the stroke of midnight. There is a double aim: getting into Guinness World Records and transmitting Venetian New Year's Day during TV news all over the world, like what happens in New York, Paris, London and Sidney. For this unusual event, the choreographer and staging director Doung Jack, who realised the mass movements for some Olympics ceremonies, will be available in order to make the show as much more impressive. He will have to direct almost 60,000 people, the expected number those who will be in St. Mark's Square on December 31st.'

So, for those of you near a TV, see if you see me and let me know...for the rest of you, you can watch the webcam of St. Marks Square and I will wave to you!

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I remember as a kid, my father was part of a Union and they went on strike. While I wasnt there in person, I heard about the picket line and the signs and the negotiations. In the end, it was resolved as best these things can be and work went on. Since then, strikes have increased in the US but they are mostly done to instigate communication and negotiation. Some last less than a day because people start negotiating at the threat and others (like the current writers strike) go on for weeks.

But here in Italy, strikes happen randomly, sometimes without much notice and mostly with no change whatsoever to policy or pay. You might have heard about the one last month with the drivers. That went on for a little over a week and I heard that some gas stations closed because they were out of fuel. I am not sure anything else came of this activity (i.e. did they negotiate and get a deal?) Recently, there have been a few other transportation strikes that have lasted a day or less. The train people didnt work one day and the boat people another day. Well, I should clarify...some of the train people and some of the boat people. And Alitalia (the airline) is pretty consistent about having a one day strike at least every month or so. These Italian strikes amuse me--its not always all the workers across the board and it can last for just a few hours--the next day, its like it never happened and nothing has been gained.

Today, I went to the post office to mail a card (local address). I was told I couldnt buy a stamp because there was a strike today! Keep in mind, the post office is open and people are working, so I dont really know what part of their services they are striking about? She directed me to the tobacco shop (which sells stamps and lottery tickets along with cigarettes and candies). I went to the closest one, bought my stamp and went back to the post office to drop my letter in the box. I did notice that you are able to mail packages today and do a variety of other activities at the post office but definitely not buying stamps. I cant say whether there is mail delivery today or not either....I am assuming because it has to do with postage stamps, they wont go out today (but this is only an uneducated guess based on my experiences with strikes in this country)!

Here is another uneducated guess on my part......I have had enough discussions with Italians to know they rarely call in sick. In fact, they seem to 'know' that Americans often use sick days just because they dont want to go to work. And they find this abhorrent behavior! I think they create strikes for the same reason!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Number 5 at 42

Well, here we are…my 5th annual birthday update letter. I only thought it appropriate to post it on the blog since this year, my distribution of people to update is more global! I usually share the highlights of the year with you now but it’s hard to pick out just a few when one lives in Venice!

I was thinking about last year at this time. I was arriving in Venice to sign the lease on my apartment here and celebrate my birthday. And, today, I am sitting in my apartment in Venice getting ready to celebrate my birthday!

I figure since you are already in my blog, you can get caught up if you haven’t already done so and read about my adventures, experiences and thoughts. But there are a few things that I haven’t posted—a few things I have learned during this year.

First, God’s blessings on me and his plans for me are so much better than any I come up with for myself!
Second, the beauty of this world (both natural and manmade) are indescribable at times.
Third, I really can live a much simpler life and there is great happiness to be found in that.

But I don’t want you to think that my letter this year is heavy with philosophical musings.

Mr. Peabody is doing well. He will be 17 in February. We had a few scares this year but I am amazed at how resilient and playful he is. My time in Italy has been enhanced because of my little buddy.

Earlier in the year I tried to come up with a list of 5 things I miss. Well, I still miss my couch back home! When I get back, I am going to sit and lie there for a good week without moving!

After 30 some visitors to my apartment in Venice, I learned more about you and me than either of us ever expected!

I have attempted to write that book I mentioned last year. It is so much more difficult than I ever expected. So, while I have not progressed as far as I had hoped, I have made a good dent in it.

More importantly, I have started seeing a plan for my future—what I want to be when I grow up. It’s not completely outlined yet, but know that this time away has given me the opportunity to think and ponder like never before.

It is officially winter now and I am doing amazingly well in this weather. I have also learned that I really don’t like the cold (no surprise to most of you) and am very happy that my home is in Phoenix!

I have a few more trips planned so far…Germany in January, Malta in February, Dublin in March and April is being discussed. After that, who knows. I do love traveling and seeing the world. I did get that wonderful email from the UK telling me I won the lottery there, so after I lose my mind and send them money to claim my winnings, maybe I will just travel the rest of my life!

I miss you all and have appreciated the technology to keep in touch. I look forward to a new year with anticipation. In the meantime, prayers to all of you for a blessed year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christingle and the Basilica

Its about 2am and I am just getting home from midnight mass at St. Marks Basilica. What a fabulous, glorious end to a wonderful day.

After my brief nap this morning (see previous blog), I went back to St. Georges for Christingle. I have included a picture of my 'souvenir' Christingle and provide you with this link to explain more on this tradition.....

Then I had dinner with some friends and off to St. Marks for mass. Although we arrived about 40 minutes before mass was to begin, it was already packed. The service was in 5 languages (Italian, English, German, French and Latin). But for a brief reading on the birth of Jesus, I didnt really understand the mass and how it related to the birth of Christ. But, sitting in the Basilica and looking at the magnificent art and artistry was more than enough. I kept thinking that I hope I can recreate this moment in time once I return to the US.

After the service and communion (which I did not do because they specifically asked for only Catholics), most went up to the manger to touch the replica of baby Jesus and cross themselves. They didnt have the entire manger scene, just the main character!

And, incredibly, the church was open for everyone to enjoy. For those of you who have been to St. Marks during 'business hours', you know that you are confined to a few places for visiting. But tonight, the entire church was open. To be able to walk around in places that I have only seen from a distance and to get an up close and personal view of it and the cardinal in all his gold regala was incredible. I am sad that I didnt have my camera with me in order to share with you, but suffice to say, it was a treat and a blessing!!!
Off to bed now. God Bless each and every one of you!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Mince Meat Pie

This morning I went to the Reverends house for a traditional Christmas Eve morning of mince meat pie and mulled wine! I love them both. My grandmother used to make mince meat and rhubarb pie...I dont think I have had either since she passed away some 12 years ago or so. And I do love mulled wine!

Mince meat pie (for those of you who are skittish) no longer has meat in it and consists of fruits and other sweet things. The Reverends wife hand made the crust and all. She actually made what we would call tarts.....small individual pies with a 'lid' on it. As English tradition goes, you are to pull the top off the pie and make as many wishes as you have currents (not raisins) stuck to the top of your crust! But you can only do this for the first pie.....which means the other three that I had are strictly caloric intake and dont grant any wishes!

On the way home, this little ol' lady asked me to help her over a bridge and down the stairs. What a sweet thing she was and what a treat to be able to help on this special day.

Tonight, I am off to services at church where I will partake in my first Christingle service. Apparently this is originally a Moldavian tradition that the English church has taken over in the last 30 years or so. Everyone gets an orange with a stick in it and a ribbon around it to symbolize the world and Jesus.....I dont think I have it all down yet but I will figure it out tonight! Just so you know, it has nothing to do with Chris Kringle on the cartoon! haha

Buon Natale in Italian!
Happy Christmas in English!
Merry Christmas in American!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Carol Service

Last night at the church I attend here in Venice (St. Georges Anglican), they held a traditional carol service. Over the past several months they have had many traditional services that I have never experienced in the US. Part of the reason is because I am not Anglican in the US and part of the reason, I think, is that we have lost alot of the formality and reverance in our Protestant churches back home.

The Carol Service included the traditional 9 lessons and some carols/hymns in between all telling the story of Christmas. There was a girls choir who came from the UK to help out. The 9 lessons start in Genesis and end in John and give a brief synopsis of mankind and the birth of the Savior. I never thought the Bible could be summarized in 9 lessons but it can be! And it is done quite well.

I was asked to read one of the lessons which was truly and honor for me. Not being at home or near my family and friends for the holidays makes me appreciate life even more. Being blessed by having new friends in Venice and a great church to attend brightens the season in my eyes.

On Christmas Eve, they are having the traditional Christingle service (another one I have yet to attend) which is a service for families including carols and the blessing of the stable and the Christmas tree. That will be at 5pm. Then I will have dinner with some new friends and we will all attend the midnight mass at St. Marks Basilica at 1130pm!! On Christmas Day, St. Georges will celebrate the Holy Eucharist (Communion as we sometimes call it) of the Nativity of the Lord. What a glorious season and I wish you all the blessings of this tremendous day!

Friday, December 21, 2007

December 20th

Yesterday, Venice came alive with people and activity. Apparently, December 20th is the official day when Christmas shopping begins. You could just see, feel and hear all the extra people out and about. The Americans are out, the Japanese are out, the Chinese are out, the Italians are out, the Germans are out...its just like summer in Venice with the crowds, except that its only 38 degrees outside!

They also started the markets in many of the major squares around the city. There are some Christmas items here but it reminds me mostly of flea market stuff. They even have the "As Seen on TV" items and the guy who is hawking you to come take a look! There didnt seem to be anything I couldnt live without although there are few things that I have contemplated just because.

One thing I did see finally, which I have only heard about to date is the police checking your bags. Its the law here to have a receipt given to you and also that you take it. The police can stop you at any time and ask to see the receipts for what you have purchased in your bags. Like I said, I never saw this happen until today when some confused English woman was pointing at her receipt, then pointing at the store down the way and then back at her receipt. She was saying in English that she just came from the store and this is what she bought. The policeman didnt really care and I think he just stopped her because he was bored and wanted a distraction for a few minutes. And because he could!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Birthday Celebration

So last night was my 42nd birthday. Well, not really until the 26th but since that is a holiday around here, I picked last night for a dinner party. Here are the highlights of the day.

I was lucky enough to sleep until almost 8am...thank you Mr. Peabody for that lovely gift! Then I went to get a two hour massage. Apparently, I am the first person to ask them for this extended luxury. Instead of spending extra time on each limb to use up the 2 hours, she gave me an hour massage, told me to lie there for a few minutes and she would be back. At which point, she started all over again with another 1 hour massage. Funny but still a nice time.

Unfortunately, it was a balmy 34 degrees outside after the massage so I was immediately 'alive' once I stepped outside from the warmth of my experience. I delivered my dessert to the restaurant for the evening and went home for the afternoon where I painted my fingernails for the first time in aobut 2 years and took a little catnap!

At 7pm, I met 12 of my new Venice friends (and one from Prague) at my favorite restaurant--those of you who have visited me will remember Rosa Rossa. We toasted with champagne and sat down for some appetizers (cicchetti in Italian). The owner, Christiano, his wife Elisa and brother Dionigi served up a wonderful atmosphere and fabulous cooking. Red wine was flowing. As a surprise, I ordered a suckling roasted pig which is a specialty of Sardenia and you might remember me talking about it back in July. There was so much food for appetizers that we didnt even order any meals and went straight to dessert--cannoli for everyone!

It was a great evening. Hardly anyone knew each other and this made for great conversations and laughter. I had such a special time and got some wonderful gifts (they even know I like cows here!). I will always treasure my memory of my birthday party in Venice! As my blog says, I truly am living the charmed life.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Guess What?

For those of you who eat at fast food restaurants, this may not come as a big surprise to you. We all know that McDonalds is everywhere in the world, but not every place has Burger King. For some reason, this tiny little island has 2 McDonalds and 1 Burger King!

I was waiting for a water bus the other day and reading the small advertising panels they have posted around. I noticed these two and was amused--it translates to 'The America that we like' or 'America as we like it'. Apparently Burger King is having an anniversary and regardless of how they feel about us as a country, they do like our food! The first ad shows Jerry Lee Lewis....nothing speaks of Venice more than 'Great Balls of Fire', right?! The other ad talks about a Harley which is ever so practical on an island that doesnt allow motorized vehicles!
Just so you know, however, I wont be eating there.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Ok...just back from another trip to the vet. Much more pleasant for both of us this time. I decided to forego as much walking as possible and took a long boat ride around the island to get close to the vet. Mr. P did good except for the intial putting into the carrier event.

At the vet I knew I was in for a wait when there were already 3 people waiting. Turns out another emergency (aaarrrggghhh). There was a cat inside who went into shock. At least this time I only waited for about 45 extra minutes before I got in. In the waiting room, everyone loved my cat carrier again (this seems to be a big hit over here and perhaps I should consider making some money off of it!).

Once inside, I saw the cat in the side room. He/she was hooked up to many tubes, had an oxygen mask and an elderly owner whose eyes were red from crying. It was very sad. And, of course, that is when Mr. P decided to start crying at the top of his lungs. Once the vet started to draw the blood, it was more like bloody murder he was screaming. Upsetting for everyone around.

But we survived and left in about 5 minutes for another long boat ride home. He ate like a horse when we got here and its all in the past now. I call next week for the test results to see how the thyroid medicine is doing. And, hopefully, that is the last time he has to go in the carrier until its time to go.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A day in Asolo

So today was another day trip on the train. I went to Asolo which is about an hour northeast of Venice. Really a very quaint and charming boutique town. I never get tired of looking at the architecture, color and decay of Italy. Asolo was a haven for rich Venetians back in the day (i.e. hundreds of years ago) and still is today. At one point in its history it was a fortress town and completely encircled with walls. I took over 150 pics in my short time there so you can tell I really enjoyed myself. I also had a hard time picking some to show you and I think I might have gone overboard!

Shortly after arriving, my new American friend (who lives there via Denver) got a call about doing a job. She has a business in decorative painting and finishes. The man who called was an art dealer in town, originally from Brazil via Canada to Asolo. Great story. There is a very old farmhouse in the country about 15 minutes outside the city in which a wealthy Italian man purchased as a gift for his wife. The nice part is that he did that 2 years ago and she still doesnt know! He hired Mr. Art Dealer to do the renovation, expansion and landscaping on the house because he was an unknown in the city and it would be easier to keep the secret! So now after 1 1/2 years of landscaping and expansion, they are starting to work on the exterior colors and next year the interior (thats where my American friend comes in!). The property is exquisite. You feel like you have stepped back in time in Italy. The views are incomprehensible and he has done a fabulous job on landscaping (over 600 trees and bushes planted---would love to come back in 10 years and see it again). On Christmas Day, Mr. Italy is going to bring his wife to this house and tell her about the great secret! We are only hoping she takes it well and doesnt wonder if he is prone to keeping other secrets from her! :-) If she enjoys living there half as much as I enjoyed my hour or so there, she will be one happy woman.

Back in Asolo, we had a nice, casual lunch and off for more siteseeing. But before we got too far, we ran into a kindly, old man dressed in his best for the afternoon out. We talked briefly and he pulled out a wad of old, faded pictures from his pocket. It was his life and his family there in his hands. Its times like that I wish I was fluent, because I am sure he had many wonderful stories to share.

I got my share of exercise today on the hills but it was all worth it. The best way for me to explain is by stealing a commercial: Roundtrip ticket via train from Venice to Asolo: 7.70 euro. 1 quattro formaggio pizza and a coke for lunch: 11 euro. 7 hours in Asolo and 150 pictures: priceless!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fixing Venice

I have talked enough about the decay and restoration of Venice. Its a huge undertaking. And its very difficult to describe. Well, the island of San Pantalon here in Venice is being fixed and I was able to snap some pics for you to help you understand. San Pantalon is an island and is part of the 117 islands that make up the full island of Venice as you know it. No one really talks about the 117 different islands here but in this case, they are literally using the canal boundaries to do some restoration.

At a high level, the workers will dig up the street and go about 5-7 feet down where they will find all the pipes and wires for that area. They will replace what they can or need to, build up the foundation again and then cover it all in and put on a new street. A job this size can easily take over a year to do even though it is an area the size of a normal 1300 sq ft house. It truly is fascinating how they work their way around the island, fixing and repairing. It never ends.

Unfortunately, when I went to take pictures, it was morning and the tide was in so I wasnt able to get some of the best ones showing you the old vs. the new. However, I think you will get the idea.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sunday Funday at Billa

So Billa is the only grocery store here on the island open on Sundays. Why I decided to go there today is beyond me. Let me paint the picture. Think of a store the size of three 7-11's put together and with more than the fire code limit of people in there. Then throw in at least 30 shopping carts, a dozen carry bins and a few carry on suitcases from tourists I saw. All that together and it is next to impossible to move around in this store.

For whatever reason, I wasnt in the least disturbed by this chaos. Perhaps because Dean Martin was singing Christmas songs on the radio overhead or I was thinking about what kind and where am I going to get a birthday cake. However, not everyone was in the Christmas spirit.

At one point when I was in line for the cashier, there were about 12 people in front of me and 12 behind me....and that was only at one of the three registers! There was an elderly couple who tried to beat the odds--he stood in one lane and she was right behind me. He got to the cashier first and so she wanted to go up and be with him to checkout. This works in America occassionally but you do get some dirty looks. Trying to do this in a Volkswagon sized grocery store is not cool. As she maneuvered her cart and pushed everyone to the sides so she could get through, you can only imagine the disgruntled shoppers mumbling. Until.....Mr. and Mrs. Venice decided to let these people know (and everyone else in the store) that what they were doing wasnt right. A very heated argument ensued. Lots of 'mamma mia's' from the crowd because there was no lack of cuss words being slung (Merry Christmas, huh?!).

It was all rather amusing because I wasnt in the middle of it. The argument went on for a good 10 minutes and even after the wife checked her items (which by the way was about 20 bottles of beer and nothing else), the husband stayed back to continue arguing with Mr. and Mrs. Venice. All the while, Dean Martin wishing cheer in the background.

It struck me that an encounter like this in many parts of the US (and the world) would result in fisticuffs or worse. But not in Venice...they like to argue....they get a charge out of it and I imagine they never get ulcers from keeping it all bottled up. In the end, everyone left and I imagine these two couples might scowl at each other if they are ever in the same area again.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A day in Vicenza

This morning I hopped the train (I do love train travel) to Vicenza for a day trip. Well, it was more like 6 hours in Vicenza but I met 4 others there---a German, an Italian and 2 other Americans. What a fun international day. Beautiful little city about an hour from Venice and the Teatro Olimpico by Palladio is by far the most outstanding piece of architecture I have seen in a while. My pictures dont do it justice but enjoy the scenery anyway.

On the way home, I was dozing on the train (in a car almost all by myself), when this man came and had to sit across from me. I immediately knew it wasnt because it was crowded in there. If there ever was a reincarnated Liberace, this man was it--picture him in all his garb, rings, lisp and slicked back black hair!!! He was very nice (Antonio) and tried so hard to have a conversation with me. I got most of it but really only wanted to sleep! It was obvious he was flirting with me, although his mannerisms and outfit just screamed that he was more interested in men and not women. He was getting off at the stop right before me and invited me to come with him. I politely declined in Italian and told him it was a long day and I was going home. Then he suggested he come to Venice with me and we go out for the evening. I hated to lie to the guy but I had to. Why? Because I dont know how to say in Italian....I dont want to go out with Liberace and you are creeping me out because I dont even know you and you have already asked if you can come visit me in Arizona. So, instead, I said (in Italian), I was going back to my apartment in Venice to see my boyfriend. I should know better that Italian men dont really care about these trivial things like relationships! He was OK with not meeting tonight but insisted I call and we have lunch tomorrow. So now I have Antonio's business card and still no boyfriend. Oh well, he was a nice man but I still would have rather taken a nap!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

We're all decorated!

A new friend of mine here in Venice loaned me a few Christmas decorations that she wasnt using this year. So, as soon as we started (me and Mr. P), he was very specific about where he wanted everything placed (i.e. within his reach)....also he was very proud of his abilities to direct (now go up a few steps and put another one)!

Monday, December 3, 2007


I am really going global this year! Wednesday is my first meeting for the upcoming Pantomime show being produced here in Venice in January. Unless you come from the UK, you are probably thinking a pantomime is the same thing I did--the guy with the white gloves who doesnt talk but tries to get out of the imaginary box. Well, low and behold, its a long held British tradition and actually more of a play with some audience interaction.

We will be giving 4-5 shows I believe over 3 days and all are in English and the community is invited. I wont be part of the actual cast but I do have a couple of 'behind the scenes' jobs to do and am really looking forward to experiencing this event.

For those of you who want more info on this tradition, you can go to and read all about it. The website mentions how it never really took off in America!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The First Christmas Market

So, today is the day...December 1. I cant believe it. I went out this morning to the first Christmas market that is open.

I thought they opened at 10am but it was 1030am. Nonetheless, I was able to take some pics before anyone started shopping. I will definitely be back to browse myself. Its a small, quaint market with a bit of crafts and a bit of food...perfect way to spend an hour or so.

Time to get in the mood....hope I brought some classic Christmas music with me to listen to!