Five Islands

Five Islands is a spectacular location on the NS Fundy Coast on the way to Parrsboro via Hwy 2 (the Glooscap Trail). Sitting on a park bench yesterday at Lighthouse Park, overlooking the islands, it’s clear from the panorama that at one time the islands must have been one continuous point of land projecting into the Bay connected to the mainland beyond the island at the far left of the photo. In the photo you see the western end of Moose island on the left. From left to right you have Moose, Diamond, Long, Egg, and Pinnacle islands. Beyond Pinnacle Island you can just see a seastack called Pinnacle Rock on the far right.

Five Islands At Low Tide

I’ve been driving by Five Islands on my way to Parrsboro for more than twenty years. Each time I’ve always wanted to take a photo of the islands at that spot on the highway where you come around a bend and see the islands through a gap in the trees. But there’s no stopping spot there – there’s sort of one on the water side of the road but I have never stopped until yesterday. I left the car parked on the shoulder, hazard lights on, and walked ahead until I got to the exact location where you can see the islands framed by the opening in the marsh.

Five Islands

The perspective here is somewhat different from the view at Lighthouse Park – you only see four islands with Moose Island on the far left and Pinnacle Stack on the right. At this angle, Diamond Island is hidden behind Moose.

My friend Ruby and I sat for quite a while on the headland bench enjoying the peaceful quiet of the afternoon. There were a pair of clammers digging quahogs on the mud flats while the tide was out but they quickly ended their harvest when the tide began coming in. This is the Bay of Fundy – the tide comes in very quickly and the water becomes very deep very fast. These locals were taking no chances and although their buckets were only partially full they knew enough to leave at the first sign of water returning.

At Five Islands

I was able to capture a photo of Ruby on the bench watching the men at work in the distance. This will definitely be my next wall art piece. I love her relaxed posture, her position against the coast, her head against the sky. I don’t know whether I’ll show low tide or imagine the Bay at high water. All to be determined.

The two of us had a lovely day. I wanted to return to the exhibit to take more photos and I knew Ruby would love to see the quilts hanging. After a short visit to the gallery (we were sneaking in because it was closed to visitors yesterday due to social distancing restrictions (there was a drawing workshop happening with Tom Forrestall) while the workshop participants were away having lunch), we had delicious lobster rolls at the Harbourview Restaurant then slowly made our way back to Halifax, taking side trips on small roads I’ve passed for years but never explored.

It was a lovely day.

BTW – show comes down Aug. 20 in the afternoon.

Update – And Back to Creative Endeavours

Arrived back in Halifax early last evening, dumped everything in the apartment and headed straight to the walk-in clinic. I was able to secure a visit for a couple of hours later. Came home, had some soup, then returned to see the doctor. No pneumonia, no other serious communicable diseases – just a very over-reacting reactive airway due to the many irritants encountered in Italy. The doctor prescribed a 5-day course of prednisone (an oral steroid tablet) to see if that will help reduce the swelling in my bronchi; we’ll see if it does. I started taking it this morning. In the meantime I’m continuing with the pulmicort I’ve been using for the last six weeks (I’ve used it off and on for 27 years). Coughed continuously this morning but I think I’m starting to feel the steroid kicking in (about 5 hours after taking the first dose) – the congestion deep in my chest is rattling less so the uncontrollable coughing is subsiding.

I unpacked this morning, put stuff away – I find putting stuff back much easier than preparing to go away. I’ve done several loads of laundry much of which is hanging to dry.

I’m not feeling up to it today, but tomorrow I plan to return to the partially quilted quilt I had on the go when I departed.

Back of Quilt – Quilting Detail

This, after all, is a blog about my creative endeavours – the knitting, sewing quilting, etc. that I do. I need to get to work again – I have a showing of  small textile wall art pieces already in my collection in June, and a larger exhibition of quilts end of July – beginning of August (I’ve got six new quilts completed and will fill in with two from the quilt stash) and new wall art (which I haven’t even begun to work on).

On Deck – 2008

This photo of the women on the ship deck is one I want to do – removing the lifeboat and putting her on the other side – she will also need to be lightened and sharpened – I worked on that a bit before I left for Italy.

A second work I want to create is of Roger Federer playing at the Aussie Open 2018 – this closeup was taken from the overhead spider cam but shows him practically in the air – both feet are a fraction off the court surface and you can see him tracking the ball.

Federer – Aussie Open

My intention is to have the figure smaller in relation to the court by filling in the background as in the image below – with the timer clock (obscured by Federer in this image) and probably cutting out the spectators.

Court Background

This one needs more playing around but I want to get going on it soon.

So finish quilt and work on these two art pieces – full steam ahead.

A Twist To The Adventure

I’m sitting in the Toronto airport waiting for a connecting flight home to Halifax in about 2 hours, three days sooner than planned.

Gate 44 Toronto Pearson

What I haven’t mentioned was that I travelled with my “mystery” cough hoping the change in climate and location might actually reduce the tightness and congestion. In fact the reverse happened – I reacted to the alpaca, lots of vegetation was in bloom so lots of pollen, the old house, formerly a barn for animals and hay made the cough slowly worse. I woke up Tuesday morning (yesterday) and said to Linda I thought it prudent to get back home as quickly as I could.

To make a long story short, Gianni drove me to Tarontino to catch the train to Florence. Linda called ahead and reserved a hotel room for overnight. I was able to upgrade my return flights through Air Canada (don’t ask about the cost – as my late father would have said “it’s only money!”)

This morning I departed Florence at 6:40am to Frankfurt, connected to Toronto and am now waiting to fly the last leg of the journey shortly.

I’m not sick, but the chest congestion and the coughing are dreadful. My usual maintenance rituals aren’t working so it’ll be off to the doctor tomorrow to see what’s possible to settle my airway down.

I was afraid to stay till Saturday concerned the situation would deteriorate to the point that I couldn’t travel. Figured it a good idea to get home while I was able.

I had a great time for the 10 days I was in Tuscany/Umbria. Loved all the shmoozing and  eating we did.

And that’s more than you wanted to know!

Lace – Crochet & Tulle

Today’s highlight was our visits to Tuomo and Panicale to see two very different sorts of lace. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any of the (mostly elderly) women at work but we did get to meet one crochet lace maker and I was able to buy two small pieces which I intent to frame.

Crochet Lace Table Runner

Crochet Lace Collar

The hand work is simply magnificent – done with extremely fine crochet cotton and very fine steel hook. My maternal grandmother and her sister Rose both did crochet, but their work was not nearly so fine or elaborate. I crochet, too, but I’ve never tried such intricate work. I looked at it for quite a while.

The second type of lace is sewn with needle and fine thread through tulle.

Information On How The Lace Is Made

The Lace With Paper Template Beneath

Tulle Lace Christening Gown

[Note: Wi-Fi here is intermittent so I’ve learned to publish as I go.]

My maternal grandmother and her sister Rose both did beautiful crochet work but with a much heavier thread. I, too, crochet well but usually with wool. I will have to try some fine cotton to see if I can manage something this delicate – I imagine it could take years of practice!

And then the lunch.

Restaurant On The Lake Shore

I’ll promised myself I would eat sensibly today so while the others ordered full course meals, I ate some of the antipasto, and ordered a salad. I tasted the meat and fish meals – a forkful but that was it. The food, again, was delicious. Even with the meagre lunch I ate my evening meal consisted of half a pear. I could face no more food.


Citta Di Castello

Sunday – we visited nearby Citta Di Castello – three attractions. First we spent time at the linen museum and workshop where they display old linen artifacts of the region as well as manufacture goods for sale using the ancient looms. The linen goods are quite fine and beautifully made even if they limit themselves to a few old regional patterns.

Linen Cloths And Lampshade

The private Museum is also the home of one of  the first Montessori Casa dei Bambini – the school was set up to allow the women employed in the workshop to provide safely for their little children while they worked. A few of the early Montessori materials were on display – some geometric sets and alphabet cards.

I need an aside here. I’m sitting on the front patio back at the alpaca farm watching the lawn being mowed by the animals.

The Alpaca Grazing

The alpaca are totally ignoring me. Finally Marissa comes, opens the gate to the path to the road below and shoos them away and they cooperate. They are now grazing below.

Today, also, the wine festival was being held in the main square.

Registration For The Festival

We stayed long enough to take a few photos and people watch – a lot of people leisurely sampling the wines on display. Clearly a popular regional event.

Next we visited the Burri museum. This very large, windowless building houses many art pieces from huge steel sculptures to his black on black minimalist modern wall art to many small graphics in the lower floor galleries.

My favorite piece was “Metamorphosis” a very large single work comprised of nine repeating, yet subtlely changing panels:

Metamorphosis by Alberto Burri

I spent a long time observing the subtle changes from left to right as the work changes from ochre to black.

Many of Burri’s works are constructed of vertical panels – I could see none where the panels were aligned horizontally one above another. I’m assuming the panels were a consequence of the width of the materials he was using although I didn’t find that mentioned anywhere. I was also struck, particularly in the black on black works, by the  complete lack of reflected light of some of the matte black paint.  All very interesting to experience.

And then of course we stopped at an out of the way country restaurant for Sunday lunch.

The Country Restaurant

Antipasto, primo, secondo, and dolci. We ordered so we could share in every dish on the menu today. The food was simple and scrumptious: three different procciuti with cheese and fresh bread, asparagus crepes, lasagna, spinach ravioli in tomato sauce, followed by a grilled pork trio, grilled beef, and  roasted chicken in a lemon sauce with roasted potatoes, cooked spinach and roasted fennel. For dessert we had creme brûlée, a chocolate something, and biscotti with vin sancto. All wonderful.

We finished lunch at a quarter to four. Rolled home and to nap!

More surprises tomorrow – but less eating for me.



We spent today visiting Perugia – the capital city of Umbria. Lots of people but it seems the visitors are predominantly Italian. Saturday, today, was also the antique market so it was very busy particularly in the top level of the city.

But let me backtrack. We arrived, parked at the central bus station, met Marco our guide and began our exploration upward. Perugia is a many layered city – Perugini liken it to a wedding cake, each layer perched atop the previous one.

Rocca Paolina

We began by taking a couple of underground escalators upward and inside the Rocca Paolina – a fortress structure the foundations of which were built by the Etruscans, added to during medieval times, built and rebuilt repeatedly – even today construction is ongoing to convert some of the interior spaces into shops and markets.

Inside Rocca Paolina with Marco

The history of this place is very visible in the construction elements – Etruscan stones large, square without any mortar; medieval building blocks smaller, less regular, Renaissance more brick-like. Originally the main “street” was open above but when the city was taken over by the Papal States in the 12-13 hundreds the Pope decreed previous construction be demolished and the street was enclosed.

Perugia remained under the rule of the Papacy until the formation of the Italian a state in the mid 1800s. At that point symbols of Papal power were torn down and new civic buildings were erected. Each successive city incorporated the construction of earlier ones both as economical but also as a way of showing subjugation of previous rule.

To really see and understand the history of Perugia would take several visits and lots of poking around!

We ended our visit with Marco at the fountain in the upper Piazza which separates the Cathedral and the civic building showing the conflicting forces which shapes the life of Perugia.

The Fountain

It was now time to eat something but on our way for lunch at Da Peppone – a pizzaria – we stopped at the chocolate shop recommended by Marco (not for the tourists – for Perugini).

Inside The Chocolate Shop

Outside The Chocolate Shop

At lunch while eating some very tasty pizza (mine a 4-seasons with artichoke, mushrooms, ham, and cheese – I asked for 2 anchovies) the waitress walked past with what looked like an amazing meringue covered cake:

The Amazing Cake

We actually sampled it, but it wasn’t what we expected. It turned out to be a dry cake iced with meringue – looked much better than it was.

Our last stop of the day was to a museum/workshop dedicated to the preservation of the old weaving patterns. Today there are very few hand loom weavers. The work we saw this afternoon was amazing.

An Example Of Weaving Taken From A Medieval Painting

Marta Brozetti really does wonderful work that preserves the old techniques. She does try passing on what she knows but it’s quite likely her work is a dying art.

I’ll share one last photo

A Near Full Moon Over Maridiana

This was our view as we sat on the front patio enjoying a light evening meal.

The alpaca and sheep were in for the night, the birds had settled, and we were sipping wine and enjoying ourselves.

More adventure tomorrow.

Poppies, Cortona & Antipasti

Right now the countryside of Tuscany and Umbria is ablaze with poppies – not planted but growing wild everywhere. This morning we had a chance to make a brief stop to photograph them.

Hillside Covered With Poppies

They glow in the morning sunlight – whole fields of them. I have no idea how long they last or whether they’re harvested or not but they sure are lovely.

Poppies (Closeup)

We saw the poppies on our way through windy mountain roads to Cortona, nearby in Tuscany. Cortona is situated part way up a steep slope, a tiring city to get around because except for one rather flat street, the streets need serious climbing.

Cortona – A Side Street

Our first stop was Il Pozzo – owned by Ivan (never got his last name) a wonderful Italian charmer. He’s an historian, an archeologist, an art aficionado. The shop has a superb collection of art, photographs, old maps, hand made paper.

Ivan gave us the history of the building – it’s foundation is Etruscan, then medieval building sits on top, followed by more recent construction on top of that. When he bought the building 18 years ago he had no idea what he would uncover as he began clearing away the accumulated debris.

At the center of the main floor is an old Etruscan well!

Looking Into The Well

The well is about 10-12 feet deep – a water depth of 5-6 feet, the surface 5-6 feet below the glass covered opening. The well had been used as a dump for centuries and in excavating the mud Ivan came across artifacts originating from Roman times, as well as bits of medieval pottery. Currently he keeps carp in the water which sits atop many feet of unexcavated debris.

Ivan, Describing the Digging Process

Following the history lesson, Ivan provided us with Antipasti that were out of this world – he’d prepared three hot dishes to spoon on top of some fresh focaccia:


  • Tomato sauce with juniper berries which gave a distinct burst of gin flavour
  • Chicken livers with anchovy, capers, vino sancta, salt and pepper
  • Fungi porcini

all simply delicious!

Following our visit to Il Fozzo, we climbed a street from the Piazza to have lunch in a nearby restaurant. Another delicious meal.

Antipasto For Lunch

I ordered what I thought would be a small antipasto, this is what arrived, all delectable. I managed to eat about a third of the offering. What we’re disovering is just how much Italians eat.

We finished lunch at about 2:30. We then drove uphill to the Sanctuario Di Santa Margherita – a large church on the outskirts of Cortona. The inside of the cathedral was lavish and the views of the surrounding countryside spectacular. On our way home we made a brief stop at a monastery nestled in a corner of a large olive grove – one of the last stopping places of St. Francis of Assisi, the rather large well kept buildings now house just 5 Franciscan monks.

I slept most of the way home – it’s all that food midday that does me in. We’ve just finished a light dinner of sautéed chicken breast with salad. It’s now time to call it a day. Another adventure tomorrow.

A Wonderful Meal

We have had a grand day. We visited the Hemp Museum near Spello. The mission of the Museum is to revive interest in and skills associated with the originally thriving hemp production in Umbria. More about that later.

The outstanding event of our day was lunch. We originally stopped at a restaurant in an old monestery to have lunch but the restaurateur had no food and no chef because of the holiday yesterday. He suggested we go to another place not far from where we were.

The Restaurant As We Were Leaving

It took a bit of hunting to find La Laconda di Valacasana – located on this pond filled with trout. The house specialties: trout and truffles (this being the truffle region of Umbria).

The Setting

The meal began with appetizers provided by the house: first two plates of various prosciuttos and pecorino cheese with truffle, trout, and creamed truffle bruschetta, then two more plates each with three different truffle samplers. Next a bowl of some kind of thick bean soup, then a liver dish with some kind of vegetable, and one more that I can’t now recall!

Then the waiter asks what we want to eat. We ordered: trout with truffle (x2), tortellini with creamed truffle sauce, polenta with truffle (and other ingredients), spaghetti with a truffle sauce, mixed salad and spinach with parmesan and garlic which we shared around.

As We Are Finishing

We ate until we were all stuffed, then slowly pushed away from the table to head on to Assisi to view the Duomo.

The entire meal for six, with many bottles of water and carafes of wine – €100!

Back to the hemp museum.

Setting Up A Weft For Weaving

The museum houses a collection of old linen, cotton, and hemp garment and other artifacts beautifully preserved and housed in drawers with details of age and donors displayed. Beautiful hand work. There are small looms for people to try their hand at weaving, a large loom on display. A lovely young woman, a fashion student, walked us through the collection with explanations in English.

Our last stop for the day was a visit to the Assisi Cathedral

Assisi Cathedral From A Distance

Because lunch had done me in (we didn’t finish till 3:30), I abstained from the steep climb to the church and instead accompanied Linda to do some grocery shopping. The small supermarket wasn’t busy so the staff were happy to provide an informal language lesson – it’s a surprise how vocabulary and phrases are coming back after 50 years.

We’re now sitting on one of the patios with wine and more food (if you can believe it), enjoying the end of the day.

Looking forward to whatever is on the agenda for tomorrow.

Arriving At Maridiana (Umbertide)

The weather here today was simply gorgeous. The further away we got from Florence, the cooler and breezier it became.

We made several stops on our way to Maridiana, the alpaca farm. Our first was the Prada outlet.

The Prada Entrance

This is the best I can do with this – the front door! No photos allowed inside. It would have been fun to have had images to show the flashy goods and the ridiculous prices – I came across a women’s simple leather jacket for €2500 (we saw beautiful leather clothing in the market yesterday for €150-€400!) I didn’t last long – a key fob for €100 was way beyond anything I was prepared to spend for a Prada trinket. I retired to the cafe to wait for the others.

Our next stop was the town of Arezzo – a typical old Italian town with a large Duomo which we stepped into. We wandered about town for a bit before stopping for lunch in the Piazza Grande. The town was mobbed since April 25 is an Italian national holiday of some sort; people everywhere enjoying the day.

Piazza Grande in Arezzo

By the time we’d finished lunch at 3:00 we decided to head straight to Maridiana. The farm is situated in the Umbrian hills. The photo flattens the countryside which in reality consists of well defined slopes.

At Maridiana

Green, green, green! The landscape has turned verdant this past week we were told, with red poppies in bloom along the highways, and lots of other vegetation in flower.

This is one of the two houses on the farm. This one is large – it houses Giani and Marissa the owners as well 3-4 guests in a separate half of the building. Another building close by has space for another 3-4 guests so the place accommodates our party easily. Each building has a kitchen, dining room, living/sitting room on the main floor and two bedrooms on the second each with its own bathrooms. Definitely more than comfortable for our stay.

The Back Side Of The Farmhouse

The star of the establishment is the newborn alpaca. The animals were lingering near the house to welcome us.


Marissa had prepared us a welcome dinner of fresh local cheese, salami, a barley salad and pizza, finished off with fresh fruit tarts, and of course white wine. Here we are eating on the patio under the wisteria which had bloomed in the past two days. Quite lovely.

Dining Under The Wisteria

Tomorrow we venture further south to a hemp museum which houses a largish collection of hemp artifacts gathered from local residents who have had these curtains, tablecloths, garments in their families for multiple generations.

We will have an early-ish start in the morning in order to arrive by ten or so. Should be very interesting.

More Florence

Sheila and I decided to return to the Piazza Del Duomo again, via Bus route 22, but this time we wandered toward the river through the galleria and leather market.

The Galleria

The Leather Market

The leather goods were sumptuous – I couldn’t resist a pair of bright turquoise lined leather gloves. Sheila was drawn to the handbags.

After browsing through the leather stuff we headed toward the Uffizi. It was one in the afternoon and the Piazza was packed with people (and pigeons).

Piazza Near The Uffizi

There was no point in attempting to enter the Uffizi, the lineups snaked the length of the building. Instead we strolled toward the Fiume Arno and the Ponte Vecchio.

Il Ponte Vecchio

It was interesting to see a heavily armed presence guarding the route:

The Military Presence

The two soldiers in an armoured truck on one side, two young soldiers with assault weapons across the road from it. A determined van driver however could have mowed down many pedestrians before being stopped, the moving crowds were so dense.

Lots of interesting shops on the side streets:

A Glass Shop

I loved the array of colours and shapes on display in this one. Don’t know where the glass was made (quite likely in Venice).

After a number of hours strolling in the sunshine we headed back to a bus stop and back home. We ended the afternoon with some gelato from a shop near our B&B Hotel.

At Gelateria Barroccino

This young man (didn’t get his name) makes wonderful gelato – many flavours, different ones each day. I’ve tried straccitella, nutella, and today cioccolatto.

We ended the day by having dinner with the other women in the group, including Linda who has organized the trip. Tomorrow we head out to Umbria and the alpaca farm, a long winding trip planned to take most of the day. Looking forward to whatever comes next.