Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hotel Searching

In order to prevent us from developing a case of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) from the lack of sunshine here this winter in the UK, Scott & I will be heading to Morocco in a few weeks for a short holiday. We are looking forward to experiencing the vibrant city of Marrakech and are also looking forward to a few days of no winter coats, sunshine, and (hopefully) no rain! 

We decided to book a small Riad as our hotel for this upcoming trip. There are so many unique Riads in Marrakech from which to choose, and although we did not end up booking this particular one - Riad Zolah -, I was very impressed with their unique offerings as part of their daily room rate: 

Our rates are quoted per room per night, and are inclusive of our full range of generous extras which most other riads either fail to provide, or for which they make additional charges. Your price includes:

·       Round Trip airport transfers. 
·       Breakfast. 
·       Free loan of local mobile phone (roaming rates in Morocco are very steep!). 
·       Mineral water on demand (help yourself from our guest fridge). 
·       Tea, Coffee, Fresh orange juice on demand. 
·       Complimentary Moroccan leather slippers for use in the riad and then to take home. 
·       Bose iPod docks in all rooms (and even the loan of our pre-loaded iPod!) 

·       Riad-wide WiFi Internet access, in addition to a dedicated PC for our guests' use. 
·       Local taxes.

This Hotel was the first one I have ever seen allow for a temporary mobile phone. Very cool touch I think!

We decided on another Riad since Riad Zolah was fully booked on one night we wanted to stay there. Instead, we are staying at this riad - another small Riad in the centre of town with just 6 rooms. I hope the stay will be as lovely as the photos look.....

Saturday, January 23, 2010


X signs off....or X as a British signature seems to be a popular thing....what exactly does it mean??? I am a bit confused on the meaning behind it because I thought it was meant to be a signature for close friends....a "kiss" so to speak.....

It is somewhat common in the US to use the "xoxo" - meaning hugs & kisses - as an ending or a signature. However, the " X " seems to be the British version of that. I never see the "O" in there.

So, given that this X tends to be used when corresponding with close friends, imagine my surprise when I received an email from a work client/colleague/acquaintance and HE ended his email with 

There was no name, no "bye", no "regards", etc. 
I was surprised and still am a bit perplexed....

I am wondering if I have the meaning of this signature incorrect??? Would you use such a signature or ending in a business setting? 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hide and see if I can find....

Ever since we were robbed over here in our last house, I am always a bit paranoid that we will be broken into again when we are away on vacation. "Touch wood" (as they say over here), we have not had a repeat incident or any problems in our new house, but I still worry when we prepare to go away. 

As a result, I have been hiding important things before we leave (i.e. jewellery, documents, etc.) so if we were to get robbed, it would be difficult for a robber to locate these valuable items. While hiding these items makes me feel better about the probability of a robber finding them inside our house, I am now faced with the problem that I cannot find these things myself! I have now (temporarily) lost a stack of Euro bills that I had hidden somewhere over the summer, and now since our recent trip to Italy, I have forgotten where I hid my nice jewellery..... I guess I will pray to St. Anthony tonight and then embark on another round of seek and hope I find in the house tomorrow....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cuisine d'Italia

The food we ate while in Italy was fantastic and is worthy of its own post. We ate pizza, gelato and pasta at least once a day, if not more. Our trip was a carbohydrate-lover's heaven! I have noted some restaurant names in this post because they are worth seeking out if you are headed to these parts of Italy.....Hope you are reading this post on a full stomach, otherwise, it might make you hungry.
Pizza. After a few days of the straight margarita version, we tried the prosciutto and pineapple version. YUM.
I was worried about finding a good restaurant for Christmas dinner, without going overboard on cost. We lucked out with our choice - - Lalocanda del Pellegrino was delicious and very reasonable. The anti pasta assortment included perfect fried zucchini sticks and their bolognese sauce melted in my mouth. The pasta was light, hand rolled and near perfect with the sauce. It was a great find, especially for a holiday meal. 
Spaghetti carbonara, a simple green salad (insalata mista), and pasta with a simple tomato sauce. We returned to - La Fraschetta Di Mastro Giorgio after having been there last April, when we stayed in the Aventine neighborhood. 
The restaurant has a meat bar, with a meat tender (as we have coined it) who slices and dishes out the aged prosciutto, chorizo, jambon italiano, and fine cheeses. The house wine was great there too. 

Another restaurant we stumbled upon near our home base was IL CHIANTI near the Trevi Fountain. This place was so good, reasonable, and close to our flat, that we went twice for dinner. It both a wine bar and a restaurant, with over 200 kinds of Chianti alone from which to choose for vino. Ironically, the house wine here was not recommended but our waiter was good about recommending a nice Chianti wine to enjoy with our meal.
The front of the restaurant was nicely lit for the holidays. There is a courtyard in front which would be lovely in warmer weather.
Inside, the restaurant is filled with tables and mismatched chairs. The walls are lined with wine bottles.
Cacio e Pepe. The pasta dish Scott fell in love with during our last Italian holiday. It is a simple (in this case, homemade) rolled pasta with pepper and cheese. Simple goodness.
Il Chianti featured a tasty rosemary and salt wood-fire cooked flat bread as part of their pre-dinner breads on the table. I could have made a meal out of the bread by itself. 
Carrie and Mom enjoy their meal at IL CHIANTI too. 
While the meals were filling, we settled our stomachs with dessert or just a daily afternoon snack of gelato. Our favorite find was the most "famous" gelato shop in Rome, located just steps from our apartment - San Crispino. Their chocolate gelato was intense and well worth a visit!

As we headed further south in Italy towards the Almalfi coast, the cuisine did become more influenced by the coastal area, namely with the larger selection of seafood on the menus. 
I enjoyed this fried fish assortment one day for the lunch. It was lightly fried and simple. 
Scott found himself ordering the seafood salad at almost every restaurant in southern Italy. He really enjoyed it for lunch AND for dinner, a few days in a row!
More home made pasta....
Pizza in southern Italy - it was more delicious than the pizza we had in Rome. All ingredients are just so fresh, and the tomato sauce is so good....
And to end on a sweet note, a photo of the bakery case at a lovely little bakery in Sorrento. I am not sure of the name of this place, but it warranted multiple visits while we were there. There are these apricot/butter type cookies that are sold in many cafes and bakeries throughout Italy and they were a hit with my family. My mom stocked up on them at this bakery and I can still taste them....mmmm...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I had never heard this phrase, "chock-a-block" until we moved over to the UK and every once in a while it creeps up on it did today.
The first time I heard it, I received an email from a Brit with whom Scott & I were trying to schedule a couple's dinner. The email read:

Hi guys,
OK we are back in one piece and Chocka Block we are at Ascot this weekend so cant make it Friday. Can we set a date for when you return from France?

I remember reading the email and I thought there were words missing or words mis-spelled in here.....I showed it to Scott and he thought it looked like foreign writing as well. So, we googled "Chocka Block" and found the meaning:  (according to
chock-a-block or chock·a·block  (chk-blk)
1. Squeezed together; jammed: The cheering fans were chock-a-block in the stands.
2. Completely filled; stuffed: "I recommend the north shore chowder, chockablock with pieces of seasonal fish" (Charles Monaghan).
3. Nautical Drawn so close as to have the blocks touching. Used of a ship's hoisting tackle.
Chock: a hall that was chock-a-block full.

Chock-A-Block is a phrase used in English language to emphasise an excessive amount of something in one place.

Through more online reading (wikipedia this time), I also discovered this past bit about the phrase in the UK life:

Chock-A-Block was a BBC children's television programme, first shown in 1981 and repeated through to 1989 and shown as part of the children's programme cycle See-Saw (the "new" name for the cycle originally known as Watch with Mother). "Chock-A-Block" was an extremely large yellow computer, modelled to resemble a mainframe of the time; it filled the entire studio and provided the entire backdrop for the show. The presenter of the show supposedly played the part of a technician maintaining the computer; there were two presenters, Fred Harris ("Chock-A-Bloke") and Carol Leader ("Chock-A-Girl"), but only one appeared in each episode. At the start of the show, they would drive around the studio towards the machine in a small yellow electric car(with the catchphrase "Chock-A-Bloke (or Girl), checking in!").

Today the phrase crept up on me again during multiple traffic reports. After hearing the word mentioned during the 20 traffic updates during my TWO AND A HALF HOUR drive to work this morning, in the blizzard conditions, I can attest that the reports were correct. My traffic was too, chockablock the entire route to work! Or, as it is said in the US, it was gridlock the entire way....

Just another word for you to add to your vocabulary if it's not there already....

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Winter Wonderland

We are living in a snowy winter wonderland in our part of the UK right now....a few scenes from this morning: 

It is very picturesque here right with the snow so new and white but's COLD outside! The news reports say this cold bout has been the worst the country has seen in glad to be a participant in such history (not quite!). And this country does not handle their snow very well. Our rubbish bins (aka trash cans) are still on our street waiting to be removed. Many other services, schools, trains/planes, businesses and more were just cancelled today. If such behavior would occur in Chicago, we would never have to work or be able to get anything done in the winter months! 

Friday, January 1, 2010

Christmas in Rome

We spent Christmas in Rome with my family. It was a magical city in which to spend the week. 
We have arrived! Scott and I arrive to greet my parents at the flat in Rome. 
Christmas Eve in St. Peter's Square:
Watching the procession from the TVs placed around the square.
Lots of spectators were gathered in the square area to watch the mass on TVs in the area.
More of the Mass on TV.
The Christmas Tree in the middle of the square area.
Scott, Carrie & Dad on Christmas Eve. My mom was really tired from jet-lag, so I stayed back at the flat with her to keep her company.
On Christmas Day, the weather was lovely and we spent the day wandering around Rome and enjoying the outdoor sights.
Dad & Mom walking along the streets of Rome.
Scott, Carrie, Dad, & Mom at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. 
The fountain at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. Even on Christmas Day, there were still people gathering there! 
The Piazza Naovona 
There was a large Christmas market in the Piazza Navona. Many stalls were selling these strange witch like dolls....
The Italian treats of large sugared donuts were sold at the market. I actually did not try one....(they looked a bit stale up close).
Carrie, Cassie & Scott in the middle of the market. 
Carrie & Scott enjoying Christmas Day lunch al fresco - in the middle of DECEMBER! Can't beat that weather! 
A full family shot of all of us on Christmas Day - a bit of a windy afternoon as we strolled through the city, walking along the river here.
We brought Christmas crackers from the UK to open and enjoy while in Italy. We all wore our crowns and played with the trinkets inside!
Scott wearing his crown and finding his beef jerky treat in his Christmas stocking. 

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2010! We have just returned from a fabulous Christmas family vacation in Italy so I will be posting photos and a recap soon....

As we start a new year today, we are thankful our health, family, and everything we experienced in 2009. We hope for another healthy, happy and prosperous year for everyone we love in 2010!

Last night, we enjoyed a new year's eve dinner in Italy with my the airport hotel! While it was not the most exciting italian meal we had while on vacation, it was nice to be together as a family. We had a wonderful week together exploring Rome and the Almalfi Coast before everyone flew back to their part of the world this morning. 
Sisters Carrie & Cassie
Scott with his in-laws at our New Year's Eve dinner. Of course, as it has happened in the past when Scott is with my parents, he was asked again on this vacation if he were the son....One of our guides in Rome thought Scott was the son and I was the daughter-in-law!