Tag Archives: Florence

To the Glorious Round Woman in the Piazza

I see you
in the Piazza
near the Uffizi.

It’s a hot day,
hotter than we
expected for October.
You’re wishing you
hadn’t chosen jeans
this morning
and your polyester top
isn’t helping.
You pull the top away
from your collarbones,
fan yourself with the fabric.

Your face is pink with heat
and something else
I recognize.

Your tour guide is talking
but you find it hard to focus
on what she’s saying.

I see it.
The moment you think,
“I’m too fat for this.”
“I’m too fat for this tour,
too fat for Florence,
for this piazza ringed
by statues
of perfect bodies.

You think people are looking at you.
You think you should have stayed home.
You think, “Who was I kidding?”

Oh, Girl!

I want to tell you that
you’re exactly where
you’re meant to be.

The piazza suits you.
Florence suits you.
Travel suits you.

You are glorious beyond measure.

Drape yourself in cotton and linen.
Move through the city.
Employ all your senses.
Let the world dazzle you.

Surrender yourself to your life.

You are exactly where you are meant to be.
You are glorious beyond measure.

What I’m up to right now + how you can join me:

Conversations with Your Life: An Online Course
This yummy six-week online course begins on Monday 30th October and the deadline for registering is Friday 27th October at midnight (EST). Here are the delicious details.

Six Day Challenge
During the week of October 16th – 21st, I’ll host a six day Conversations with Your Life Challenge where I’ll offer daily exercises to give you a wee taste of the course. I’ll be posting the challenges on my blog, Facebook and Instagram. I’d love for you to check out, and participate in, the challenge.

New Year’s Conversations with Your Life Retreat
We’re hosting three or four women in Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia from Thursday 28th December 2017 until Monday 1st January 2018. The retreat is a live version of the online course and includes transportation, accommodations and meals. The deadline for registering is Friday 27th October at midnight (EST). If this is your jam, you can learn more about the retreat here.


What was left out


I wrote a poem
about where I’m from.
A friend asked what I had left out.

The time
that my childhood best friend’s boyfriend
we’ll call him Ian
because that was his name
(and when you are mean to a writer
expect to be mentioned by name)
called me fat
and pushed me into a snowbank.

In grade 7
I became friends with
Sarah and Pauline.
We had sleepovers at Pauline’s house,
she lived close to school,
and listened to Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell
and a Rod Steward album with a plaid cover.
We danced on the couches,
ate cheezies and coke
and no one told us to go to bed.
Pauline died of cancer last year.
I never got to tell her that
her friendship
made me feel
like myself.

When my grandmother died
I couldn’t sit in the front row
at the funeral
in the wooden pew where the family
was supposed to sit.
My Aunt thought I should sit there anyway
but my Mom said I could sit
anywhere I wanted.

The way light lands
in Florence, Italy
at five o’clock in the afternoon.

The high school students
with whom I have worked,
mostly Grade 11 and 12.
Caught in that ragged spot
between teenager and adult.
Yesterday, I saw a Senior at Starbucks.
She gave me a chocolate covered date
from a visit to Abu Dhabi.

I want to say that I’ll cherish it
forever but the truth is
I ate it with my cafe latte.

{The original poem is here.}

A peculiar story about time travel

I don’t know if this happens to you but sometimes, in the middle of a mundane regular-life moment, I find myself somewhere else.

Standing in front of the greeting cards section at a Target in McAllen, Texas.

Eating panna cotta in a tiny restaurant in Florence… and, at the table beside us, four raucous women are licking their plates and laughing until tears stream down their faces.

Waking to the sound of the call to prayer in Istanbul.

We’re in a gorgeous, sun-filled cafe in Vienna and the waiter, who seems impossibly kind, explains that the woman sitting in the next booth is a poet. And she won the Nobel Prize when she was younger and had black hair. (He whispers the part about her hair.)

My first heavenly bite of a tamale at the Christmas Posada at our school in Monterrey.

Birkenau in Poland. It’s snowing lightly as I walk behind Damien and our guide. I didn’t expect there to be beauty here but there is. For a moment, I’m light-headed and I think I might pass out.

We’re preparing strawberries to make jam. I’m with my mother in her kitchen and the walls are the colour of baked cheesecake.  My fingers are stained red.

I don’t know if it’s time travel or not but I find myself visiting past moments quite a lot lately. And for that moment, I’m really there. I can taste the panna cotta on my tongue… feel the sun on my face and neck… smell the jam as it thickens on my mother’s stove.

All these moments – those from my past… and this moment right now – these moments make up my life and I’m grateful for every one of them. Even the hard ones.

And I’m particularly grateful for the time travel.

Recently, I’ve been visiting Barcelona in my mind frequently. I wonder that that means.

{Photo Credit: Kyle Hepp}

Where have you been going in your mind?

Florence Shopping List

When DP returns home from one of our trips, his bag rarely weighs even one kilo more than when we left. I will admit that I am the shopper in the family. My favourite little somethings to bring home are jewelry, ceramics, and art pieces – items that are made in the place we have visited and that will remind us of our travels.

But when we travel to Florence, even DP leaves extra room in his luggage. Florence is a shopper’s city and, best of all, it boasts the kinds of markets with which we fell in love in Mexico. Sure, you take your chances (just try returning an item at the San Lorenzo Market) but the prices cannot be beaten.

Here’s what goes on our shopping list:

Sun dried tomatoes

These are sun dried tomatoes purchased inside the Central Market. DP buys them in half kilo bags that have been vacuum sealed. We have twice taken some home to our families in Canada (DPs father is wild for them) but on my last trip home, the Canada Customs agent informed me that the tomatoes (even when sun dried and vacuum sealed) are strictly a no-no. We will be enjoying our tomatoes in Barcelona from now on.


Welcome to Europe, centre of the scarf universe. Even if you have never been a wearer of scarves yourself, you may find it interesting to witness the ways in which European women (and men) “finish” their outfit with a scarf. To make it elegant or classic or funky. The scarf is never merely functional, a warm bit of stuff at your neck (as I’m afraid it sometimes is in my beautiful Great, White North). The stalls at the San Lorenzo Market carry gauzy spring scarves in pastels stripes, sumptuous wraps for winter, and silk scarves at affordable prices. You may find yourself becoming a scarf person yet!


I am a collector of bowls. I understand that this is not the most sensible item to be acquiring in multiples (while living thousands of miles from my home country) but I can’t help myself. The San Lorenzo market has a number of stalls selling locally made ceramics but I favour the small shops surrounding the market. On our last visit, in August, I bought a large bowl with this lemon and vine design. DP approves.

Olive Oil

There is something magical about olive oil from Tuscany. You can actually taste the mushrooms and other earth-growing things from the region in which these olives were harvested. On each of our last three trips to Italy, we bought a bottle (or two) of olive oil from restaurants in which we ate. In August, anticipating this particular purchase, we actually packed bubble wrap and tape so we would be able to transport the oil home safely in our luggage. Here’s our collection of Italian olive oils, in our kitchen in Barcelona.

What is on your shopping list when you travel to Florence?

A Forkful of Heaven: Panna Cotta at Trattoria Nella

One evening, after the sun had slipped down over the far side of the Arno River in Florence, DP and I would dine at the lovely Trattoria Nella, a restaurant recommended by Rick Steves. As we stood in the doorway reading the menu, we heard happy peals of laughter coming from inside the restaurant. After we’d been seated, I got a closer look at the five women-friends on vacation together. North American. Sun burned. Joyful.

The waitress brought them a dessert that looked like a mound of ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce but we knew it couldn’t be ice cream because it remained unmelted in the August heat. The first forkfuls sent the women into staccato cries of dessert-ecstasy that demanded the attention of the other diners in the trattoria. As one of the women actually picked up the plate and licked it clean, we all laughed aloud.

When it was time for our dessert, I said (with glee), “We’ll have what they’re having.”

When we returned to Barcelona, I found a panna cotta recipe on Over A Tuscan Stove , the food blog of Judy Witts Francini who is also known as Divina Cucina. I have adapted her recipe slightly.

Panna Cotta
2 cups of heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 package of gelatin

1. Put the gelatin powder in 1/4 cup of cold water, it will soften and swell up.
2. Heat the cream but do not it let boil.
3. Dissolve sugar into the cream.
4. Put the softened gelatin in the hot cream and stir until the gelatin is melted.
5. Put the cream in individual molds and let chill.
6. To serve, hold the mold in hot water, and unmold onto the serving dish.
7. Drizzle hot chocolate sauce over the panna cotta.

For your own forkful of heavenly panna cotta, visit Trattoria Nella in Florence.
Via delle Terme 19/r
Tel: +39 055 218 925

Opening Hours:
Lunch: 12.00 – 14.30
Dinner: 19.00 – 22.30
Closed: Sundays

At Home at Il Bargellino in Florence

We were headed to Florence. It was mid-August and the weather forecast warned us rather sternly of temperatures in the mid-30s. The truth was we did not need to be convinced to slow down. We were returning to Florence for the light, for the food, for a vacation from our vacation. We wanted to sleep in late and wander the city and eat when we were hungry.

We wanted a hotel that felt comfy, a home “away”. We wanted to find a small hotel with character, with carefully chosen art on the walls and a guest book in the hallway. I dreamed of a room with creamy lemon coloured walls and light green doors and soft linens on our bed. I wanted to walk through our room, and throw open the dark green wooden doors to the rooftop terrace. Early one morning, we would wake before dawn and I would sit on the terrace and watch the sun rise. One night, I would buy a Corona and think of Mexico as I drank half of that golden bottle of beer and Florence and I would settle into the almost-coolness of evening. DP and I would become part of the household. The owners, Carmel from Boston and Pino, an Italian sailor (I would always think of him as a pirate) would invite us to share their dinner as if that was the most natural thing in the world. I would wake to the sounds of Pino and his parrot conversing in that secret language reserved for pirates and parrots. We would arrive home from the market one afternoon, parcels of scarves and packages of sun dried tomatoes in hand, as large drops of rain began to fall on the city. We would open the doors to the terrace to watch the storm and the cat would wander tentatively into our room. Soon she would make it known that this was her room and that we were only passing through. We would sigh because we knew it was true.

Hotel Il Bargellino
Via Guelfa 87, 50129 Firenze, Italia
Telephone: (055) 238-2658
Email: carmel@ilbargellino.com

Dreaming of Florence

I think we should visit Florence. Really! I can’t imagine a more perfect place for an end-of-summer getaway.

The Uffizi Gallery boasts the best collection of Italian Renaissance paintings anywhere. The food is Tuscan and hearty and fall-on-your-knees delicious. Eating in Florence is, more often than not, a religious experience. Nirvana for foodies.

Glorious is the light that falls across Florence at seven o’clock on a clear August evening. The Arno River runs liquid gold while yellow buildings bask in the sunlight. It is impossible to look bad in Florentine light. (There is something about Italy that makes me want to use broad sweeping statements.) Citizens and travellers grow luminous; they appear rested and beautiful as the seven o’clock sun caresses their faces. Exposes them.

As they walk through the city, lovers turn and look at each other more often. They tell stories that begin with “Remember when…” They touch each others’ faces, hold hands.

Night falls and the city is cooler, quiet. The stillness is interrupted only by the sounds of laughter and motos flying into the dark, distant far-away-from-here. We cannot help but turn our love inside out as we hover, like hummingbirds, in the moments just before sleep. We worship this city.