A belated wish for 2014

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Greetings from my desk, complete with my new fit ball/desk chair.

The year 2014 and I have gotten off to a rocky start. Already we’ve had some ups and downs.

Roo and I arrived home from our marvellous time in Argentina and Chile, documented here, on 30 December after a long flight. Santiago-Auckland-Sydney-Adelaide. That’s 18 hours of actual flying, but about 24 door-to-door. Ouch!

So we didn’t make it till midnight on New Year’s Eve. It was all I could do to watch the fireworks on TV in Sydney, which is of course a half-hour ahead of us here in Adelaide. My head hit the pillow at 11.47 pm and I was out!

The first week back was filled with restocking the house with food after 6 weeks away, doing copious amounts of laundry and generally tidying our personal effects.  As well, I had registered for an intensive 5 day training course (Certificate IV in Training And Assessment) that required me to do some pre-work in the form of watching some training videos and completing some workbook exercises. My computer decided to give me grief as I was starting my pre-work for the course. Stress levels rose! But I sorted it and averted any major computer or personal melt-down. Suffice to say that first week was full.

Week 2 was my intensive course week. From Monday through Friday, 8.30am till 5.pm, I was in a room with other learners cramming six months of coursework into our five days. This included giving two presentations on which I was judges against a long list of criteria. Because of the compressed time to complete the course there was homework and preparation every night. Half way through the week I started itching. My back felt like I had a spider bite or a bad mosquito bite. However my course did not allow me time to scratch or see a doctor.

My presentations went off without a hitch and I received some feedback that I can use to improve my delivery and my engagement with learners.

Saturday morning I rode my bike to the doctor. One look at my back (and front) and he declared, “Oh, you’ve got shingles”. Great, thanks! My chicken-pox virus from circa 1958 had been percolating along just fine until a point of low immunity when it decided to rear its ugly, red, itchy head.

Meanwhile, on the Friday morning of my course, Speedy the wonder cat was found licking his wounds in the potting shed. He was nowhere to be found when it was time for he and brother Jose to come in the night before. It seems he had a run in with a car, motorcycle or bike. He was limping and had some visible abrasions and a minor cut on one leg. He is a curious and fearless cat, but this has slowed him down for a few days. Roo got him checked at the vet and it seems he’s on life number seven or six of his allocated nine about now…

So that’s where we are now. Fourteen days into the new year and I have gained the qualification I was working for and gotten a disease as a bonus! The cat has had a near-miss but survived another day. The good with the bad.

I do have some hopes for the year. Being healthy is high on the list. Eating well from what each season has to offer is always there. Writing and reading more are also up there. Appreciating the moment, just being, is also high up. And engaging with friends and family and followers, in the myriad of ways and means we have at our disposal, is a goal.

I need a nap. Peace everyone!

Loro Ciuffenna, Toscana
Loro Ciuffenna, Toscana

Flashback to: Ten Weeks in Italy 2010

In 2010, my older sister and I were fortunate to be able to spend five weeks together, studying, visiting relatives and travelling in Italy. Then my husband joined me for another five weeks in Italy with a few days in Singapore on the way back to Australia.

I did a separate blog for the ten week trip as I have done for other trips (on main MLT at Large page see My Travel Sites links for others) and I was very new to blogging. The blog starts at the end of our trip with our stopover in Singapore via London, and works back. This 2010 visit to Italy still stands out as one of my top trips ever for a variety of reasons (though, seriously, none have disappointed). I hope to do many more.

I re-lived some of that fun with my sister more recently with a quick trip to the Abruzzo and beyond; and I learned so much attending Let’s Blog Abruzzo and just being there with a different purpose. I drank new wines, learned new recipes, saw incredibly beautiful parts of the Abruzzo. As well, I have made some new friends and acquaintances and renewed my relationship with cousins.

I’m still trying to find my blogging place in the world. Re-visiting these 2010 posts puts me in a happy frame of mind so I wanted to share some of that happy with newer followers. I would love to hear some critiques from readers and other bloggers. Click the link under the photo up the top to see my Ten Weeks in Italy blog.

Ciao for now…MLT

Learning to be a better blogger in Abruzzo

I have to admit that the idea of going to Abruzzo to learn more about the art and craft of blogging has struck some of my friends and colleagues as an odd thing.  To be honest, most of them have never heard of Abruzzo. Unless, of course it’s just the humorous mention of  it by a character in the recent Australian film ‘Red Dog‘.  The mine worker, Vanno, is always singing the praises of his homeland in Italy, “Ah, now in the Abruzzi…” followed by any of “…the women are the most beautiful” or “…the food is the best in the world” or “…the scenery is fantastic”.  As a migrant in a desolate, woman-less, remote mining outpost of Western Australia in the 1970s it’s easy to see how Vanno would have a sense of Abruzzo as a paradise on earth! But there’s a lot of truth in this idealised vision of our character’s homeland.

From a cousin's house in Morro D'Oro, Teramo, looking back towards the mountains.
From a cousin’s house in Morro D’Oro, Teramo, looking back towards the mountains.

As someone who also has heritage in Abruzzo, I seem to have an attraction to web sites or blogs that discuss Italy (refer previous post here) and more so if the content mentions the word ‘Abruzzo’.  So when I learnt of the Let’s Blog Abruzzo event (yes I have been following the blog of one of the organisers) I thought, “what a wonderful alignment of the planets”.  A visit to Bell’Abruzzo. A room full of people all interested in Abruzzo food, wine and tourism. A room full of people who know so much more than me about blogging. A session to help me with my photography. A list of sponsors who produce food and wine that we will be able to taste. An opportunity to meet people whose blogs I have been following for ages. It was a ‘no brainer’…

I am so looking forward to seeing family, attending the conference in a part of Abruzzo that I’ve not been to before – the hill-top town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio – and immersing myself in all that Let’s Blog Abruzzo has to offer. Ci vediamo presto!

Back from India and Malaysia

Hello Peeps!  Roo and I got back from overseas about a week ago.  We thoroughly enjoyed or time in India and our 6 day stopover in Malaysia.  I blogged along the way and, since we got home, have done some final posts regarding the food in both countries.

If you didn’t follow the blog along the way, here is the web address for ‘Ah, India‘.  I hope you enjoy reading as much as we enjoyed the trip.  Thanks for following and all the best for 2013!

Happy trails to you all.

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Our last day on the road a few hours before boarding our flight home.

A two month break

A two month break from posting is a long time for me. So what’s been going on in my life to cause this?

Hmmm…perhaps it’s my current obsession with taking pictures on Instagram. Add that to my obsession with all things Italian, my study of la bella lingua, my day job at the documentation factory, a visit to the Royal Adelaide Show and a 4 day weekend in Sydney. Perhaps some of these are blogworthy things. I shall ponder that and for now share a recent Instagram picture.

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April come she will…

We really were blessed with some fabulous weather this April. The track pants and socks took longer than usual to make their first appearance for the year.

Daylight savings time is over and the days are getting a little shorter, but the weather felt like summer right through Mid-April. It was nice, but kind of weird, like someone forgot to turn on Autumn.

There are now signs of Autumn in the garden. Roo pulled out the tomato and tomatilla plants today. And harvested the last of the tomatoes and cucumbers.

This April marks 5 years since our beautiful mother Louise Pergolini Tucker passed away. It’s the first year that I have just smiled when I think about her rather than well up with tears (remembering all the times I could have been a better daughter). I still miss her and dad heaps.

Annual year-end review of books on the night stand

Another year is nearly over and the rotating door for books that is my night stand is sporting a lovely and mostly new crop.  A few of them are travel guides recently borrowed from the library and some of them were on the night stand last year, but are at least started. Some from last year’s list were never read but instead moved to the ‘maybe next year’ pile on the bookshelf. And others still are purely for reference and have ben returned to their place in the cabinet.

Those in the ‘maybe next year’ pile have no inherent faults. It’s just that some books need to be saved for the right occasion, like reading on long airplane trips.  Such books need to be not too big to carry around on a trip of 4 or more weeks, but big enough to last the holiday. If, like me, you like to catch up on the year’s films while on a long flight, a moderately long book is sufficient even for the gruelling 12 and 14 hour trips from Australia to North America or Europe. And if, like me again,  you don’t have holidays where you sit around by the pool in a lounge chair reading books, but instead walk for several hours a day and just want to close your eyes and put your feet up when you get back at night, you’ll know that outside of planes and airports, not a lot of leisure reading actually gets done. My on-ground reading tends to be of the travel boos and local information guide variety.

Really big books like Barbara Kingsolver’s La Lacuna (512 pages) need to be savoured over time.  I needed to have a few days break and go back a page or two to catch up and really understand where I had left off while reading this one. It was worth the effort and a very enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

Smaller books like the Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines (293 pages) are good for reading on the tram or bus to work as they can be chucked into the handbag or lunch box quite easily, and held with one hand while dangling from the commuter strap waiting for some young punk to give up their seat for the nice grey haired lady (fat chance). I enjoyed the writing in this book but did not get a sense of a strong narrative, rather many well written threads.

Try as I may, I still only manage 3 or 4 books a year.   So, between studying Italian, work at the documentation factory, volunteering for the Fringe and enjoying summer and the festival season, here’s the list I will work with this year (subject to change without notice).

This year's crop - some carried over from last year

Looks like a monthly update is all I can handle…

There seems to be a lot going on, and little time to blog about it.  I’m thinking that perhaps I am too connected and a bit disjointed in my approach to social networking and blogging.  I have been considering only updating my Tumblr blog MLTuckerAtLarge, which feeds to my Twitter and my Facebook and just leave it at that.  More photos taken on the run, less writing.  But the whole idea of this blog was to write more. Easier said than done.

The day job at the documentation factory and my ongoing love affair with studying Italian seem to be getting in the way. Maybe it’s just that I have been busy with summer (now more or less gone) and blogging will be easier to do over the colder months (from the cozy couch). So, I am not giving up yet. This year will be the test.

But right now, I have Italian homework to do…i compiti.

Mi piace i compiti!

Geez 2011 – you have some catching up to do

Other than a photo on my bike ride home, I haven’t posted a blog since the first of the year. Oh dear, what’s going on? Last year I was quite prolific, at least for me…

It’s not that nothing is happening this year; maybe I am just adjusting to being back in Australia and back at work after my fabulous 12 weeks off, with 10 of those weeks spent in Italy (view Italy blog here).

Whatever it is, I seem to not be finding time. And now the Adelaide Fringe volunteer work I do in the lead-up to the Fringe Opening Night Parade, is upon me. Of course there’s always the day job at  ‘the documentation factory’ to keep me truly busy.

Been making ready a room for Emily, my niece who is arriving in less than 24 hours now. and it is looking pretty tidy! We are sure to have some blog-worthy adventures over the coming months…And well, maybe now that I have admitted I have a problem, I can start to work on it!  Here’s to my blog stats for 2011.

Central market Adelaide