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November 21, 2015

Cookies Console

By Maryanna Gabriel 


"Oh dear. I had a cookie for breakfast. It was oddly consoling."
                                     
― Journal Entry November 14, 2015

Right about now I am not allowed in the stores. One has to face one's shortcomings. I have no control. There is no point really. Any rational discussion with myself seems to get suspended in some sort of vortex as I flash my card with glazed over eyes. Sometimes I try to pretend it is January. Not a chance. It just does not work. The place in my brain that monitors the credit card transactions is on vacation. So I am consoling myself with cookies. I was enraptured by the baking in Tuscany and while I am at a loss as to how to replicate what I tasted, this recipe I created was inspired by the 
Tuscan Inspired Almond Cookies

experience and is close. No flour or butter! These cookies have a festive quality.

Tuscan Inspired Almond Cookies

1 ¼ c. of ground almonds
¼ c. of white sugar
½ tsp. of baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
zest of one orange
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. Amaretto
¼  finely chopped dried cherries
¼ c. chopped pecans
1 egg white beaten to a froth

Mix. Drop with a teaspoon onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees. 

November 14, 2015

Paris

By Maryanna Gabriel

How can I write about deer thundering through the underbrush and what not after last night's events in Paris? Yesterday morning I said to the local health nurse that the scale of the Syrian refugee crisis is being called by the UN "the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time" and made an analogy to the Second World War as millions are involved. She got it. Last night our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau addressed the nation saying that France was our ally, a war-time term. Is this where we are heading? How many major world powers have now been antagonized? What fat purses are fueling this dark, spiteful, black flag bent on wreaking destruction and havoc like something out of Mordar in a story by Tolkein. We are being forced to defend. Put up borders. Arm. The antidote to senseless violence? Strength. Our belief in liberty. Goodness. An absolute and utter refusal to knuckle to vindictive bullying. To have courage. To not be afraid. Paris we mourn and pray with you.

Paris Last Night After 130 Died

November 7, 2015

Stitch In Time

By Maryanna Gabriel

                                                                              “As I get older, I just prefer to knit. ” 
                                                                                        ― Tracey Ullman

It must be all the tizzy with the swearing in of new ministers in parliament. Suddenly politics seems inspiring. I seem to be coming out of a very long period of feeling inured and experiencing enjoyment at what I am hearing. Who would have thought? Enjoying Canadian politics. Am I dreaming?

I was just discussing politics with a group of women I knit with. We meet in a pub and some of us have lunch. We talk. I enjoy that too. I am actually working on a beautiful vintage needlepoint but forgive me, I digress. We were discussing the plight of the Syrian refugees arriving with just the clothes on their back in the Aegean Islands of Greece by the boatloads. I was realizing as I tried to imagine the desperation driving these people, mostly I read, women and children, that I had been inured to this too. I felt ashamed of myself. As I researched more closely I realized that help was far too slow in coming and those that were helping were heavily burdened. I couldn't sleep. We decided we would knit a blanket as a group and send it. "Eight inches of wool isn't enough,"
I thought and I thought. 
I said to my friend as we discussed the design. I thought. And I thought. Then I thought some more. What if I ask everyone I know to respond to the call for blankets, scarves, and hats? Then it would be like even more people would be warm in Greece. I thought what if the entire pub started knitting and what if it outflowed to knitters in the street, and knitters in the town, knitters all over the island, and knitters all over the country sending warmth to people emerging from the sea with just the clothes on their back. So far I have pledges for two scarves, some are donating money, and I have knit 5 squares. It feels pretty good. It will all be there for them by Christmas. Suddenly, Canada announced we are reversing our no refugee policy and taking 25,000 people in January. It has been a long time since I have had a sense of pride in my country. That is still three months away. A person could be awfully cold waiting for help. One stitch at a time. Someone, somewhere will know there are people who care. It is a big blanket of warmth. 

October 24, 2015

Juste En Trou D'Eau


By Maryanna Gabriel

Suddenly I feel like a name dropper. Memories have come sweeping back. My mother met Pierre Trudeau at a party and spoke with him for a prolonged time. After that, his photo was pasted over the kitchen sink presumably to help with dish drudgery. It was there for a month or so. Perhaps it was for this reason that my father developed an intense dislike of this man who now has the appellation "the father of Canadian politics" it is to be assumed because he steered us through separatism and inaugurated the Canadian Constitution. It would seem he has fathered a dynasty.
... ahhh, fresh air

I had no idea I was feeling so oppressed by a government that minimally participated in climate change, refused to assist Syrian refugees, initiated retirement at 67, and employed bombing overseas. We never used to stand for these things as Canadians. Last night I saw how a nest of vipers have been breeding in the Val D'or RCMP where First Nations women have been repeatedly raped and dumped for a period of twenty years. It makes me angry. I love that the new Prime Minister wants to put a stop to the "trail of tears", hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women in a country that has not seemed to care. It is enough to make people speak out, isn't it?

Unlike my mother before me, while I probably will not be bumping into Trudeau at any parties I suddenly feel like I can square my shoulders as I take in the fresh air.

October 17, 2015

Not Out Of The Woods

By Maryanna Gabriel

I recently  had someone visiting me from a large Canadian city who asked me in a rather quavering tone, did the deer here bite? I stared at her. I thought to myself how appalling it must be to be so out of touch with nature. To my credit I kept a straight face and replied quietly, "No".

She countered with the question, was there anything to worry about then. "You mean bears and such? I said lightly. She nodded. I hesitated. I was not going to tell her about the time I saw a black bear ambling towards the canal road. It was only once in twenty years after all. Shaking my head, I turned from her with a clear conscience and bustled off hoping her stay here would settle the question.

It was not much later I was reading the "Salt Spring Exchange". There had just been a cougar siting on Starks Road and for folks to be careful. My friend was long gone. Deer may not bite but cougars surely do. It was a reminder for me that a little humility might not be amiss when it comes to these types of conversations. We are still not out of the woods.


October 10, 2015

Pootling

By Maryanna Gabriel


I am reading Bill Bryson and he is using a most wonderful word... "pootled". If he can do it I most certainly can. After leaving Hornby Island we pootled up to Courtenay for a wonderful Eggs Benedict at one of my favourite restaurants there, The Atlas. It comes with an attractive stack of fruit topped by a tomatillo which always delights me. Happily smacking our lips we meandered into historic Cumberland. It used to be desolate and haunted looking. Not any more. I was surprised to see the place bustling and thriving with nary a For Sale sign visible. Pootling over to Coombs we were able to visit the market there where goats are supposed to be on the roof and aren't. I was able to get some Sriracha Sauce for half the price. This sauce seems to be a food trend. I have no idea what I am going to do with it but I have been seeing it called for lately in a lot of recipes. Maybe I will make pootled eggs with Sriracha Sauce while doing the cha-cha. 

That said, after eating ice cream , we visited beautiful Rathtrevor Park in lovely seaside
.Rathtrevor...  I usually avoid the place because of crowds. 
Parksville. I usually avoid the place because of the crowds but as we explored I began scratching my head.... I remembered more sand for one and I was puzzled for awhile because I recalled camping there with my children at the brink of ocean's edge. That is no more either. Sufficiently enlightened and updated by our wanderings we pootled our way home to live happily ever after. Now on my island here, the rains have come and it is time to burrow in quietly by the fireside with the cooler days. 

October 3, 2015

Vitamin Sea



By Maryanna Gabriel

"It was good to be a little island, a part of the world and a world of its own
All surrounded by the bright blue sea."
                                                         Margaret Brown



 Hornby Island, a pristine sparkling beauty...
I wanted to show my friend from Australia some of the beauty of the coastal waters here. She had, after all, taken me on an extensive tour in Tasmania. There the pristine sparkling beauty compares to ours. I knew Hornby Island might be quieter at this time of year and so off we went. It was the right choice. The sun shone brightly, and the landscape was golden. We walked the beautiful bluffs and explored the sweet sandy beaches, our toes splashing through the warm tidal pools. Bleached logs gleamed on the strand, often upright, amid remnants of midden
... lines of rock demarcate the oyster plots.
from occupation of the Coastal Salish. Tired, I fell asleep on beautiful Tribune Bay and later we explored the roads and beaches. We saw the oyster leases, lines of rock on the beaches that demarcated the plots, and watched as some picked up their days catch. I read some of the early history and understood why I had never come here growing up with my family. The ferries only commenced in the 1960's and at that time it took only three cars at a time. Today, this quiet place was completely quiet. With a population of less than a thousand, businesses shut their doors on Labour Day. No matter. Like islands ourselves we were self contained.

The place held us under it's spell and we were both completely captivated. We were glad we had come. 

September 26, 2015

Bears And I Continued

By Maryanna Gabriel

"If you go out into the woods today prepare for a big surprise..." 
Teddy Bears Picnic composed by John Bratten



What spooked me was, as usual, people. 

Our cook tent was loaded with grub and what most especially made the whites of my eyes show was a big
.... festooning shreds (photo credit unknown)
can of bacon grease out in the open that the cook kept lying about. What better way to attract bears in a wilderness setting. Yikes. I could not convince our camp director to do something about it. I decided that my future husband and I were going to camp as far away as possible and so we did. One evening after a hard day of reconnaissance surveying we returned to our site to find one side of our tent slashed to ribbons. As I sewed the festooning shreds back together I tried not to imagine the size of the paws that made the cuts. Now I lay me down to sleep? Forget it. Every crack of the forest, and there were many, put me into a hyper-alert state as I imagined myself being a midnight snack. There were a few more bear stories but needless to say I survived the summer. The nightmares continued for years. Finally, after one fearsome night terror I dreamed I picked up a rifle and shot the bear. The bad dreams seemed to subside after that.

I continue to have a healthy and wary respect for bears for they are unpredictable. It is not by their nature, but by ours, and how we have habituated them. 

September 19, 2015

Bears And I

By Maryanna Gabriel

I have had some interesting jobs in my day and dendochronology (counting tree rings) and looking for points
.. a black bear fell asleep (photo credit unknown)
 (arrowheads) was one of them. This was in northeastern British Columbia in a wilderness area called Bull Moose Mountain. We had been hired to determine the First Nations impact in the area from an archaeological perspective. It was quite a summer. I remember being in a trapper's cabin with an old timer discussing the Bigfoot which he had maintained he had seen. We flew by helicopter to where we needed to be with an ex-Vietnam pilot and he liked to scare the bejesus out of us by spinning the bird and cutting the engine, dropping us from the sky until our stomachs were in our mouths and we begged for mercy. One day, we were camping in a log cabin. It was my birthday. The chopper came and hovered deafeningly above the cabin. Then he lowered a bottle of champagne to the bedroom window and flew off. That was pretty fun. I digress. I wanted to tell you what happened with me and bears. We were surveying a wooded area, demarcating where we needed to excavate and at the exact point where we decided to be, a black bear nonchalantly ambled to it, lay down, curled up into a ball, and fell asleep. It was unanimous. We were leaving. But that was not what spooked me. 

September 12, 2015

Bubbles Of Happiness

By Maryanna Gabriel


It turns out the bus passed me at the 4 kilometer marker. Oh well. I at least had the satisfaction of knowing I had walked 22 kilometers on my birthday. I had driven through a forest-fire, smoke-filled interior, that was so thick that Lake Okanagan was not even visible. I followed the smoke through the Rockies to busy Banff and joined my family at Lake Minnewanka. Blowing bubbles with my grandson and later bubbly of a different sort was a perfect way to celebrate. My route home brought me through a windswept and sparkling clean interior to Vancouver after the worst storm of 10 years was starting to subside. Traffic was halted as lights were knocked out by power failures as I gritted my teeth through a branch strewn city. It does not take much to bring us to our knees. I was soooo happy to catch a direct sailing home. I want to tell you next what made me afraid of bears. 

September 7, 2015

Lake O'Hara

By Maryanna Gabriel

When I awoke from my short sleep by the river I felt better. I pulled out my little camp stove and made tea as I listened to the sheer luxurious roar of sound. Some days one just does not know what is on the agenda but I seemed to know I was heading to Lake O'Hara to the eastern region of Yoho National Park. At 9:00 a.m. the parking lot was buzzing. Two yellow school buses were pulling out, the reservations having been made long ago. I hesitated a long time. I even drove away but then I circled back. Finally, I pulled out my day pack and began walking the road. I did not know if I would make the 11 kilometer ascent. All I knew was that I wanted to see this famous place. 

I was surprised to find myself alone. Where was everybody? Up I went, past trickling streams and creeks as I once again nervously contemplated my ill preparedness should a bear show himself. Nervously I eyed the trees and immediately wished I was not so observant. Up, up, I'd say easily 18 feet up, were the scratch marks. "Griz," I mutter to myself my stride increasing. I wondered how long it had been since I walked 11 kilometers and as I scanned my memory I went back more years than I cared to remember.
Lake O'hara (photo credit Parks Canada)
Near the top I passed the campsite. I had made it. I looked longingly at a campfire with people gathered around it and pressed on. As I approached Lake O'Hara I found myself slipping under the spell of the beauty of this wild setting. Little mossy places, delicate rivulets, tiny and exquisite growing things in such a pristine wilderness. I understood why people were being limited. It would not take much to trample this all down. As I arrived at the lake I  immediately recognized why it is so well known. It is turquoises and emeralds, in a snow capped mountainous setting that is at once extremely intimate, the colours of the water engaging, the topography mesmerizing. I stared at some ducks and took in the dear little log cabins on a peninsula with lovely geranium baskets. I walked up to the lodge, glass windows revealing a white table cloth setting and a sign that said High Tea would be served that day. I was anxious about the bus down and after asking a young woman balancing a gorgeous looking carrot cake loaded with logan berries on a cream cheese icing, I remembered it was my birthday. I tried not to whine. I found out the wait would be too long. I had my family to meet in Lake Minnewanka and my time was at hand. I began the descent down reasoning I would beat the bus. 

September 5, 2015

Roaring Morning Glory

By Maryanna Gabriel

Hoodoo Campground In Yoho

Takkakaw Falls
Being in Yoho has been on my list for a long time. I have always had Too-Much-Of-A-Hurryitis when I am travelling in the Rockies. This beautiful national park backs up onto Banff, Jasper and the Kootenay, part of a magnificent quartet of national parks, that I was now making my goal as a birthday present to myself. As I pitched my tent in the Hoodoo Campground I noticed all of the bear signs. Suddenly I remembered I was terrified of bears. Earlier scary memories of being being in archaeology camps came to mind. Years of sleeping in campers has made me soft. Gritting my teeth I slept two inches from the car and awoke at 2:00 a.m. I anxiously peer out. Nothing but stars. Finally at the first crack of light and with a sense of reprieve, I crawl out of my bag, eager to be moving. Gratefully I turned on the car heat and headed into Takakkaw Falls which is a 254 meter high waterfall in the Yoho, one of the highest in Canada. My car nosed up switchbacks until I stopped at the roaring confluence of the Yoho and Kicking Horse Rivers, the air a crisp, cool, blast of wonderful sound. The Yoho is creamy in appearance, carrying glacier sediment, and the Kicking Horse is clear, and as I watched the waters join in tumultuous milky glory, the sun started to glisten on the glaciers and the mountains towered over me like a most wonderful cathedral. I continued upward past other waterfalls and came to the Takakkaw Falls.
The Water Travelled  Down The Valley
A sign tell me this means "It is magnificent" in Cree. An old log cabin greeted me, a testament to the 1900's when people came up on mules and horses to have high tea. I shiver in the sharp mountain air and find a scarf. The air is pungent with the smell of the Christmas tree forest I find myself in. I see I am at the tree line. I look up. The falls are a stunning cacophony of glorious sound. They are glacial fed, the glaciers themselves fed by the Waputi Icefields beyond.

I slowly and reverently make my way to the base both startled and grateful to find myself alone. I am able to reach out with all senses. The formation of the boulders catch my eye seemingly placed there by some divinely inspired gardener, the water pooling and rivulets streaming around me in mossy insistence. It is as if a crystalline purity is here, a diamond magnificence, almost a presence. I had the sense of the Yoho being a beautiful princess to the monarchy that is Jasper and Banf. I felt sure the Cree would have stories about this place. I stop in my tracks and gasp at the view of the falls as the water travelled down into the valley, the sun continuing to rise and reflect on the rushing river. Later I pull over by the side of the Yoho River and listening to the sonorous sound, I fall into a deep, deep, sleep. 

August 22, 2015

Indisputably Married

Two Weddings For Two Hearts

By Maryanna Gabriel

Well I stress creeped my way home a little ragged around the edges. A three sailing wait in the boiling sun contributed. The ferries in August are cause for stress creep. It turns out that the lightening bolt thing that I was referring to managed to remain a distant focal point on the horizon exactly where such phenomenon should be on the eve of a wedding. The result? All was well. It did not rain. The bucket of umbrellas on the deck seemed to do the trick. Who needs glaring sun anyways? My friend wrote to me this week, "I am currently having stress creep. I created the problem all by myself. I am going to FIX it myself. I don't like stress creep." I laughed. Self inflicted stress creep is a familiar mind state I whisper to myself as I stare into the night. Ha! Begone! The wedding was beautiful. With the bride indisputably married I am travelling in a different sort of way to Hoodoo in Yoho (yes, these are actual place names).  All will be revealed. 

August 13, 2015

Stress Creep

By Maryanna Gabriel

"You are giving me stress creep," my daughter says to me. Stress creep? Excuse me? I made my daughter repeat the comment. I was not sure I had heard her correctly. It turns out I had. I wondered if this was some upwardly mobile Torontonian, hip way to express oneself, for that is where she is based. It is a vivid way of putting things. I clearly understood the sentiment. I was merely pointing out that there was a cloud icon with a lightening bolt coming out of it placed on the weather report that happened to be the day she is marrying. It is a garden party after all. "Do you have an awning?" I asked rather sensibly under the circumstance. She replied, "That was Dad's job and he has not gotten around to it. Bring an umbrella." Hmmm. We hung up after other wedding chit chat. (I know you think I already wrote about her marrying. I did. She is marrying twice. This is the legal + relative/aunt/uncle type wedding.) I pondered the term. It occurred to me to look it up. Guess what? It's a completely legitimate scientific term that engineers use (my daughter is an engineer among other things). Define stress creep. "Stress Creep may be defined as a time-dependent deformation at elevated temperature and constant stress." Sounds like my week trying to save the garden in this heat wave... or rather my rather furtive looks in the mirror as time goes by... or perhaps how one feels with the visa bill...you get my gist. Love it. Lets wish the bride a wedding free of stress creep. Her mother too! And hey. One could always throw the term casually around  just for the mere pleasure of it.

August 8, 2015

Settling Into My Feathers

By Maryanna Gabriel


                        “Owl," said Rabbit shortly, "you and I have brains. The others have fluff.
                          If there is any thinking to be done in this Forest--and when I say thinking
                          I mean thinking--you and I must do it.” 

                                                                                       ― A.A. MilneThe House at Pooh Corner

Big Old Owl
Not Fluff For Brains
Once in a while I do something really intelligent and lie in the hammock. It's not as easy as it sounds. Time out is not one of my strong suits. I do this feeling remarkably proud of myself when all of a sudden I feel a "whooosh" of wings. Amazingly, a big old owl flew up and perched on a tree branch above me. He was lovely. He didn't notice me, I was as still as could be watching him, when all of a sudden, he swiveled his head the way owls do. His look went right through me and my gizzards lurched as his piercing round eyes took me in. He seemed unperturbed. I marveled at his calm. I admired how his mottled feathers resembled the bark, how perfectly camouflaged he was. I became aware of a lot of bird sounds around me, a real racket, as I listened. One robin, in particular was quite irate. I watched as this robin swooped aggressively and dive-bombed the owl several times. The owl just closed his eyes. In fact it seemed to me he was having a nap. I too closed my eyes and thought how honoured I was by the presence of my visitor as the forest twittered and tweeted around me. Any movement on my part seemed like a tremendous effort. It occurred to me that I could be more like this owl and ignore the twittering of the world around me, the unwelcome behaviours of the fluff-for-brains type, knowing I am a bit of alright. I capitulated to the heat, felt a deep peace, and deeply relax. I too, can settle into my feathers. 

August 1, 2015

When They Leave Us

My Dear Lexie-Loo 
By Maryanna Gabriel

I have had to gird my loins to write this. Last time this year, I was travelling with my most wonderful doggie through Canada revisiting my past as I explored the east coast. Now I am about to launch a new children’s book that also features Lexie. I have been so privileged to have been companioned by this very special furry friend through difficult transitions in my life. She was loyal, loving, and true. We saved each other  - she needed a stable home after being uprooted three times by varying owners and unbeknownst to me she was the perfect antidote to grief. She helped to heal my heart and I feel I helped hers. We have done a lot of amazing walks together and had some fantastic times. You can tell I am speaking in the past tense for a reason. My friend wrote to me when I told her the news, “She was one of the most beautiful dogs physically and mentally that I have ever met.... Lexie was an old soul.” She was. My friend continues... “By far the hardest thing about having a pet is when they leave us.” It is. I miss her every day. 

July 25, 2015

Honey Flowing On Tap

By Maryanna Gabriel

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best-" and then he had to stop and think. 
Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there 
was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than 
when you were, but he didn't know what it was called."
 A.A. Milne The House At Pooh Corner


I Remove Wax Caps
Honey House
Travelling in a different sort of way I went with my neighbour this morning on a honey hunting expedition. I put on lots of clothes and followed her into her honey house with a veil on. She opened up the hives and we examined the combs for honey and brood commenting on the state of the blackberry flowers being so much better this year than last and the fact that the honey is on the brink of seriously flowing as a result. She was most appreciative that having bees increased the vegetable and flower output on her farm. Carefully she selected the combs she wished to extract and off we traipsed to do just that. She put me to work removing the wax caps. She told me that this mixture was wonderful for healing sore throats. Bees make something called propolis which has antifungal properties which they collect from the sap of the conifers here. It helps protect them from disease so that may be why this cap mixture is so helpful. Commercial beekeepers discourage the bees from making propolis because a lighter coloured honey is commercially more viable. Antibiotics are given which is one of the many difficulties bees are encountering today. In actual fact, the darker honey is far more nutritious. After we put the combs in a centrifuge the honey flowed on tap. 

July 20, 2015

Not Like Lot's Wife

By Maranna Gabriel

A Swim To Remember

Last night was hot. The hottest I can remember. Of course I swim in the lakes here to cool down and sometimes I go as the day turns to night. Last night my body refused to move in the heat although I thought of swimming several times. This morning though, first thing, I was there. It's a maple shaded dead-end country lane that is usually quiet, my favourite spot. I passed what surely must have been an unmarked car driven by a man who was dressed kind of like a police officer. Since when did we get unmarked cars already? That seemed unusual. The swim was beautiful and I watched someone row through the rising and sparkling sunlight as I delighted in the cool of the water. As I left, the RCMP officer had red markers across the road and I stopped. Nervously I realized I was not travelling with my purse or my drivers license. Oh, oh. His mind was on other things. He asked me had I just come in for a swim. Yes, clearly as I was dripping. "You saw me come in, right?" He nods. He just said someone had suicided by the side of the road that borders the lake. "It's not a pretty picture. You had better not look." My insides squirmed. "You mean I drove right by and never even noticed? A young person?" He nods. "I'm not supposed to talk about it." He waves me on as his radio blares and a woman walking a killer pack of tiny unleashed little dogs approaches. He never asked me for my driver's license. I do drive on. I don't look. I knew if I did it would haunt me. I might give swimming a rest for a bit. 

July 18, 2015

Home To The "Insanely Fertile Wombs Of Mother Nature"

By Maryanna Gabriel

Pencil Sketch Of My Beloved Bag
Reluctant to leave the place and the subject, I hop from Florence to Amsterdam amidst a plane load of European travellers. Hurtling through space and time at a discombobulating speed, I contemplate the vagaries of the Dutch airline headset and then give up as I try to relax with the airline magazine. Startled by the cover about "pristine" Canada, I flip to the featured article on the joys of "off-roading" in the Sunshine Coast area of British Columbia, a coastline that is northeast of my island home. I suddenly felt exposed. What? Here in Europe? This is interesting? Yes, apparently it was, says the author, such an adventure. The writer waxes on about the Canadian scene where "insanely fertile wombs of mother nature are the stuff fairy tales are made of...." - er, I see, well, harumph, yes, I suppose.

If one lives in the heart of culture on cobblestone streets and where history goes back centuries, and where there is really great cheese, this must all look, well, amazing. I felt protective all of a sudden. Exposed. As if some secret were out. I envisioned an onslaught. Save the ferns. Mumbling to myself, I made a note to visit the restaurant described in the article, The Laughing Oyster in Lund, ere too much time has passed. Here apparently the whales play, the locals have hootenannies, and there are oysters to be had fresh off the beach. Amazing.

July 13, 2015

Softest Of Heavens In Tuscany

Photos by Maryanna Gabriel

Sometimes it is just better to give up on the verbal and go with the visual. Imagine the feel of a deep Tuscan heat, the sound of cicadas and swallows, the smell of rosemary and lavender, the taste of beautiful pastry and pasta, chardonnay like butter, and understand that sometimes real life can be better than our finest dreams and dearest imaginings..... then you are here with me in the softest of heavens. xoxo














July 12, 2015

Definite Quality Marry Making

By Maryanna Gabriel 

"Not tonight I am trying to quit."
 from the movie It Started In Naples starring Sophia Loren & Clark Gable

Let's just say my daughter and son-in-law really know how to throw a party. It was not only the fantastic setting, it was the wonderful and accomplished people that came from all over the globe to attend. I was fascinated. Talent, brains, looks, and glamour, most absolutely glamour. We consistently dined al fresco. My only regret was not being able to stay awake night and day. I didn't want to miss a thing. After the actual ceremony we gathered on a most beautiful castle terazzo for apertivos. Then we moved to dinner. Hours passed. The courses kept coming. There was no way I was going to get down two pasta courses for example. The wedding cake was extraordinary... a kind of milles feuilles but slightly lighter in consistency with crema and small cherries that seemed to be soaked in a liqueur. It was delicious. The stories, the speeches, the toasting.... the amazing photos, and videos. And then there was the dancing....... 





July 11, 2015

Tuo Vuo Fal Italiano

By Maryanna Gabriel

"Isn't she lovely? Isn't she beautiful!"
 from the movie It Started In Naples starring Sophia Loren & Clark Gable


Ooooo....... ahhhhhhh.... the hills of Tuscany.... the soft warm sun.... the cypresses of Lebanon like flaming green candles on a gentle landscape.... the nights of liquid moonlight and the glow of fireflies... pasta that melts like honey.... walls painted the colour of butter.....beehives around a terrace of zuchinni... terazzos of red clay pots, roses, and hollyhocks....la dolce vita... you know a person could really get into this destination wedding thing. I asked myself had I died and gone to heaven? It was all like the most beautiful and extraordinary dream. 

Definitely not like my last trip to Italy. 

As promised in my previous entry I have a photo of the shoes.... everything went off without a hitch and the
... the shoes...
wedding was lovely. The castle was the cutest, gosh a person could really do with a small castle to call one's own. Updating something built in the twelfth century must be terribly difficult. I talked with the son of the count, who manages it, this makes him the count in waiting I suppose, and he said the upkeep was very dear. Yes, it must be. It was all so beautiful, tasteful, simple, yet sophisticated, the past and the present delightfully intertwined in the most thoughtful manner. More importantly, the beautiful bride and the handsome groom were very happy and there certainly was a lot of "quality merrymaking." Below is a movie made by my son-in-law as he and his bride readied themselves before the ceremony. 





June 20, 2015

Back To The Future

By Maryanna Gabriel

Where We Are All Going - Castle In Tuscany
Lady Di Number
It is slightly larger travel budget I am working with nowadays as I contemplate my return to Florence. Thank goodness for that. My daughter is exchanging wedding vows with someone tall, dark, and handsome. The family are all traipsing off to a castle because this is where one does these things apparently. My daughter will be wearing shoes with tiny scales that flip silver one way and gold the other. I will show you a picture when I get one. One could reuse the shoes for the gold anniversary so I suppose they are kind of handy. I was worrying about what to wear. I started researching on the internet about mother-of-the-bride dresses. I read that people observe the mother of the bride to see how the bride will look thirty years hence. No pressure . Feeling slightly ill and quite anxious I cashed out my life savings and for a bad while acted as a dress hoover making purchases that seemed right but later, upon reflection with a cooler state of mind, were not quite it. Finally, one very determined day after interviewing my friends about stores, I found the Lady Di number. It was perfect. Understated sophistication, formality with a hint of playfulness signified by the black polka dots with black piping, on a cream back ground. "I'll take it," I said and flashed my card. I have been sleeping deeply ever since. 


June 13, 2015

A Dark Night - My Journal In Sicily Continued

By Maryanna Gabriel

Back on the highway two boys were hitchhiking and my friend went up to them hoping they would be North Americans and Lord save us they were Italian, younger than us by about four years. The sun was going down, we all stopped hitchhiking and warily we banded together. I write.... they shared their food with us, beautiful artichokes in olive oil and bread. We relaxed a little but we felt uneasy. It was for good reason as it turned out. As we were bedding down one of them says I must sleep with him. My friend burst out laughing. The result was not good. The darkening night throbbed with uneasy tension as we
Travelling By Backpack At Age 21
listened to them whispering and seeing one of them sit up intently staring at us caused me to tighten my grip on the knife I was holding under my pillow. I felt helpless and ridiculous, and my fear grew. We dared not move, both of us suffocated in our down bags with the heat. The mosquitoes were terrible. Oh! for dawn. It finally came. Nothing happened. We were lucky. We were bigger than them physically which must have helped. My friend later shared she had her hand on a heavy object all night. We barely slept. To have come through all of this, I feel we have been watched over by a guardian angel...

Red  Tiled Roofs

When we finally arrived at our pensione in Florence the woman who rented it to us wagged an index finger and said in a thick Italian accent, “No boys, no boys.”  
We nodded our enthusiastic agreement. Little did she know! Safe clean sheets and a bath later we were thankful to be able to rest before exploring beautiful Firenze. I write.... church spires and towers rise occasionally like some fine ladies delicate needlepoint for the architecture is like that.. the red tiled roofs are many.. . a flood of happiness went through me.
And now, all of these years later, I am set to return. I fly to Florence soon.

June 4, 2015

The Gypsy Camp - My Journal In Sicily Continued

By Maryanna Gabriel

Gypsy Caravan

The truck had seen us go, for I had remembered it, and two men were getting out and coming toward us.... we were close to breaking point, we were exhausted from all the walking and tension, our nerves were frayed. I felt like screaming. I didn't of course and we coolly picked up our packs and faced the gypsy camp. How I wish we had some men staying with us so that we could have visited! My friend was really nervous about them but I loved it. Little brown naked children, trailers, beat up cars, tents, fires with stew pots on them, women with bangles, earrings, scarves, full skirts. I knelt before a woman who could easily have been a Hopi Indian and asked for water. She broke out into smiles and directed her daughter to serve us. About six rough- looking, dark-complexioned men ambled over and invited us to stay and eat. I wanted to, thinking we could stick with the women, but my friend made some excuses and she was probably quite right. We left the camp with the children running after us calling "Donnez ciento lire!." We waked about a kilometer and then we were back on the highway once again....



May 30, 2015

Sicily Remembered

By Maryanna Gabriel


Innocents Abroad
Of course it was downright stupidity. I can see that now. We were young, but even then we must have had some inkling. Having decided of our own free will to hitchhike from the coastal port of Brindisi in Sicily to Florence proved to be near suicide. I flinch as I read in my journal how we got into a car with three boys that suddenly diverted from the highway. My stomach tensed as I heard the Italian word bano and deduced we were heading for a beach. Some semblance of intuition at long last got my attention as I cried out in alarm for the car to stop in goodness knows what language. I knew we were in trouble whereas the young blonde woman I was travelling with was quite annoyed with me. I was saving her bacon but she didn't think so. They finally let us out after heated debate and turned around honking and yelling as they headed back to the highway leaving us to shoulder our heavy packs. As we trudged back to the highway a man in a scooter appeared out of nowhere, and stopping, began a series of obscene and rather creatively suggestive gestures that I watched with incredulity and a great deal of alarm. We both responded with our own versions of what was possibly the most rudest hand signals we could muster. He was fortunately insulted (he was insulted!) and left us. My stomach a queasy morass I write..."Back on the main road we received more rides although we didn't get into cars with more than one man.... it looked finally like a night in the fields for us. We left the road and squatted down trying to make some heads and tails of a gypsy camp through the trees! I was thrilled to death. My friend and I were discussing what to do when I noticed a truck had stopped where we had left the road. The truck had seen us go, for I had remembered it, and two men were getting out and coming toward us...." 

May 23, 2015

A Grateful Return

My Garden Is My Haven
By Maryanna Gabriel

I am not kidding. I left Calgary in a snow storm trying to stay calm and nonchalant about it all (driving in the snow makes me feel ill). Coming back into British Columbia was a reprieve of green and I gratefully returned to the island to find my flowers still alive. My garden is my haven and an adventure in the wilds in itself. The more I see of the world, the more I appreciate what I have created in my own backyard for it is truly beautiful. I shall be going to the Cirque du Soleil, our famous and excellent entertainers based from Montreal. I look forward to it for it is my first time. It will be on the big island. I then begin preparation for a trip to Italy. I am sure you are feeling sorry for me. It is a family gathering and wedding. I spent a fair bit of time in Italy when I was younger and reading about it in my journal is making my hair stand on end.

May 18, 2015

My Journey Continued

By Maryanna Gabriel 

Historic Russian Doukabour Buildings Slowly Decaying
If you are on my post list for some reason the introductory email prior to the last one was not sent out even although it was published, but it is on the website. To continue my journey with you then across lower British Columbia, I stop in sunny Grand Forks at a market and buy some raspberry jam from a white-haired, extremely bent, elderly woman with a thick Russian accent. She called me a young woman which was quite gratifying. As I near the Slocan Valley I see remnants of historic settlement by the Russian Doukabours. I have heard these old building that are slowly decaying were schools. Every time I see them I feel a little sad as I can see they are beyond restoration. I rest for the night in Nelson with all its beautiful Victorian architecture as I leave the Slocan and head into the Creston Valley
Sweeping Creston Valley
admiring the hillsides dotted with wild yellow flowers. The sweeping valleys give way to Alberta and the stunning mountain formations of Pincher Creek which are so unusually arranged in the engulfing prairie vastness. There is no green at all on the trees yet the temperatures are so high I have to put on the air conditioner. I see the Frank Slide and stop. I read about a train coming through at the time, it was 1903, and one man’s successful heroism at trying to stop its advance into the disaster and of a baby found alive and intact on a rock where all around it 900 people were killed. In 100 seconds, three square kilometers were buried under 30 meters of rock. 

“I awake to the sound of a rumbling road transcending description. A terrific weight came down on us and I could not move. I tried to speak to my sister, but wet dust trickled into my mouth... I was vaguely aware that some dreadful tragedy had happened and I prayed for help.” Jessie Leitch