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TRAVEL: Wine, beer, and flirting in Piazza Campo Del Fiori

By Tania LaCaria

The flirtatious energy was palpable. The sounds of music bouncing off the stone facades of buildings, the smell of fresh tomato sauce wafting through the square along with the sight of liquid gold pouring out of freshly corked bottles of white vino was mesmerizing. As I stared at a jovial busker who was entertaining a crowd of curious bystanders, I realized the “rumours” I’d heard about Piazza Campo del Fiori were true. This was a special place to spend an evening.

I made my way over to the town square after a more-than-satisfying dinner in the city of Rome. I was told by locals that Piazza Campo del Fiori is THE place to be if you’re looking for an authentic Roman experience; which I was. I only had three days to experience the city and I wasn’t interested in wasting what short amount of time I had revisiting all the tourist sights that I had seen years ago (like the Coliseum, the Vatican, Trevi Fountain, etc). I was on a mission for an authentic experience, in search of my very own Roman Holiday escapade, and I was trying my damnedest to be as charmingly elegant as Ms. Hepburn (although opinions on my success are varied).

The side streets that led to the piazza were narrow and unevenly paved in medieval cobblestone. Neon bar signs overhead helped light my way, and once I could see the well-lit square in the near distance, I could already hear the whining notes of a nearby accordion wailing in the square. As I emerged from the shadowy alley and stepped into the official piazza area, I felt as though I had walked into an entirely different city.

Allow me to set the scene:

There were happy, drunk, young people (most of whom seemed to be deeply in love or on the verge of falling in love) everywhere.

A group of teens were hanging around the centre of the square sitting on the steps at the base of the infamous statue of Giordano Bruno – a man who was burned at the stake in 1600 for heresy. I watched the young crowd playfully tease one another in between exaggerated bouts of flirtatious laughter. It looked like a scene out of an Italian version of the Breakfast Club’s detention montage (there is nothing more entertaining to me than watching youth attempt to connect with the opposite sex).  They sounded like they were having so much fun; their laughter became infectious and I soon found myself smiling and chuckling along, as if I were part of the gathering myself.

The perimeter of the square was lined with restaurant after restaurant, with the occasional café-cum-bar venue shoved in between. Just like most of the other piazzas in Rome, beautiful people enjoying robust dishes of pasta or meat occupied every single table; their glasses of ruby red wine and sparkling water twinkled in the candlelight. I could feel the positive energy vibrating off the canopied awnings – this is “the place” to go to on a first date, but also “the place” to take your sweetheart on your 10th wedding anniversary. Love was in the air.

And so it seemed I had successfully accomplished my mission as there were very few tourists around. I noticed that most of the locals who were at the bars where nursing drinks and mingling with one another; everyone seemed eager to make new friends and expand their social circles. “Do people come here to make new friends?” I wondered to myself? Then I noticed a group of well-dressed women taking photos outside the front of a swanky lounge (surely a birthday celebration), while a nearby group of hunky men watched with respectfully lustful anticipation. Suddenly, it all made sense. The reason why one would visit Piazza Campo del Fiori is quite simple: the place was a meat-market. A sophisticated, good-natured hang-out spot where the goal was to meet that special someone to dance the night away with.

As I walked around and tried to choose a bar where I could enjoy a glass of Valpolicella on the patio by myself, I could feel a set of eyes on me. I casually glanced around and noticed that a tall, dark, handsome (Italian) guy with a beer in tow was watching me. My previous trip to Italy taught me that Italian men are not shy to stare, so I smiled to myself and averted my eyes… even the slightest eye contact can be misinterpreted as a sign of interest, and I already had a tall, dark, handsome (Canadian) guy of my own back home. I was enjoying soaking up the scene and listening to the nearby accordions when suddenly Mr. (Handsome) Beer Bottle was standing in front of me, and was clearly much older than I had initially estimated. Oh my goodness, I thought to myself, “Could this be my very own Gregory Peck!?” Maybe in another lifetime where my Roman Holiday fantasy stood a chance. I mustered up a shy smile, muttered a “buona notte” and decided to continue on my way to visit another “authentically Roman” destination on my list.

What a place.  The frenetic energy that I love so much about the city of Rome seems to be centralized in Piazza Campo del Fiori.

I look forward to returning one day with my (Canadian) guy so we can sip red wine and have a romantic dinner together and contribute to the overactive hormones that seem to hover above everyone’s heads like a cartoon cloud.  The energetic and amorous atmosphere of Piazza Campo del Fiori has contributed to my infatuation with the magical city of Rome.

RECIPE: Cherry tomato red clam sauce with linguine

serves 6

Ingredients:
Salt
1 pound linguine
3 tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
5 to 6 anchovies
1 red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pint small cherry tomatoes
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 sprigs of oregano, leaves stripped and finely chopped
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
3 pounds Manilaclams, scrubbed
½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt the water, and cook the pasta to just shy of al dente.

While the water comes to a boil, heat the EVOO in a large pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add the anchovies and melt them into the oil.

Add the onions, garlic, and tomatoes to the pot and season with the red pepper flakes, oregano, parsley, and black pepper to taste.

Sauté until the tomatoes burst and the onions are soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the wine and reduce for 1 to 2 minutes, then melt the butter into the sauce and add the clams. Cover the pot and cook the clams until they open, 6 to 7 minutes.

Discard any unopened clams and add the pasta to the pot. Toss the linguine with the sauce for 2 to 3 minutes so the pasta absorbs the flavors. Add the basil, taste to adjust the seasonings, and serve.

Excerpted from Rachael Ray’s Look + Cook by Rachael Ray Copyright © 2010 by Rachael Ray. Photography Copyright © 2010 by Ben Fink. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Spray it, don’t say it

Joana Duque is an occasional Women’s Post contributor and freelance writer.

Have you ever taken a good look at the streets of Toronto and wondered what it would look like without graffiti? Without what is better known as a true representation of our culture and our community? Most Torontonians see street art, otherwise known as graffiti, as a destruction of our streets and our city, whereas it should really be seen as a true form of representation of the people that embody Toronto and make it what it is today.

Recently, a proposal by Beaches-East York Ward 32 Councilor Sandra Bussin was made in regards to cracking down on graffiti within the city that would prohibit retailers from selling markers and spray paint to minors – a proposal that Toronto mayoral candidate Giorgio Mammoliti seems to agree with. When it became alright to categorize spray paint under the same regulations as beer and cigarettes is beyond me. But if this is the stance which both Bussin and Mammoliti seem to be taking in order to crack down on graffiti, then maybe we have a bigger issue here.

Granted, the problem with graffiti is that it is vandalism, but there are so many different incarnations of it out there that to classify all graffiti as an overall offense to have splashed on our meant-to-be-perfectly-untouched-brick-walls is to imply that politicians know art better than artists do. The history of graffiti is a long and respectable one. Graffiti first began primarily around the 1960s by political activists to make statements and gangs to mark territory – something that is still going on to this day. It could even be argued that graffiti dates back all the way to Egyptian times. But the truth of the matter is that passing a law that would render minors unable to purchase spray paints from retailers is unrealistic.

Take Bansky for example, a British street artist with an international reputation for his black-and-white paintings hidden away in downtown back alleys. Or Funktion Gallery, who, according to their facebook page, are “a collective of Toronto-based artists that host art shows, live music, live painting and poetry readings.” These are the kind of street artists that embody what graffiti is truly about and who respectfully use graffiti as a proper art form, yet their work ends up being discredited by those who use graffiti as a means to pass on a hateful message or cause rifts amongst each other and so forth. It is within this dichotomy that the system becomes flawed.

If anything, it is the gangs that pose the problem. And so what city councilors like Bussin and Toronto mayoral hopefuls like Mammoliti should be focusing on is setting up programs that could render obsolete the problem of negative graffiti in the form of vandalism, and perhaps teach minors a better understanding of how to use graffiti to make a difference within the community. There have been multiple projects within the city of Toronto where graffiti was used as a means to raise awareness for an important cause or even to raise funds for charities that needed it.

All I know is that there is no beauty in something as plain as a white brick wall and there is definitely no easy fix to the problem of vandalism within our city through a mere proposal of banning minors from purchasing spray paints from retailers. What it comes down to is knowing that city councilors such as Bussin view the passing of a law to ban the present issue from reoccurring as the cheaper and easier alternative to setting up potential housing programs for minors that would aid in not only fostering their growth but also teaching them the negative effects of their actions.

 

TRAVEL: Pret-a-porter Paris

Melanie & Doreen – Style md – are Toronto-based wardrobe consultants and personal stylists. stylemd.ca

By Melanie Jennings

I was recently in Paris with my daughter for a short holiday. It was the first time I had been there in about twenty years. Before arriving, I wondered how different it would be from when I was there earlier.

I remember a city of beauty, with fashionably dressed women everywhere.  It was so great to be back. It was exactly as I remembered it. Nothing had really changed. The French know: When you get something right, leave it alone, and let it be.

As we wandered the streets and looked in shops, I saw that everything we have here, they also have. But the big difference is what they have is infused with so much more creativity, beauty and style in addition to choice. Inside Bon Marche, an upscale department store near our hotel, we were upstairs admiring the gorgeous bedding in exquisite colours and the softest cotton imaginable. Then we came to the notions department. It was the most beautiful notions department I have ever seen. There were buttons galore in every colour, texture and shape imaginable, beautiful wools and ribbons in exquisite colors, and soft weaves, millinery supplies of all types – such an abundance of choice that was almost overwhelming.

The same can be said about the fashion. All of my favourite designers have free standing stores in Paris, and usually more than one. That kind of selection is mind boggling. I’m a recent fan of Manoush, a whimsical, fun label from Paris that was at the downtown Bay in The Room.  They carried a capsule collection last fall. When I came upon a Manoush store in the groovy Marais district, I immediately went in to investigate. The store was gorgeous, done in pinks, golds and cream, and was full of beautiful garments. I carefully looked at each exquisite garment and ended up purchasing something I absolutely love. And being July, everything is on sale in Paris. What a bonus!

From Galleries Lafayette with a whole floor devoted to shoes, to Monoprix, the Paris version of Target, to the flea markets where I found the best linen dress ever for next to nothing, Paris is still one of my favourite cities. The fashion is inspiring and the city is truly beautiful. I’ve been away for a long time, but it was great to be back and see it again. It’s like an old friend that you may lose touch with, but once you’re together again it’s like no time has gone by at all.

RECIPE: Applesauce cranberry cake

Anne Lindsay, author of Lighthearted at Home, shares a recipe for a scrumptious and health conscious Applesauce Cranberry Cake. At only 159 calories a slice, it’s the perfect holiday treat. The recipe is also certified by the Heart & Stroke Health Check program, meaning it’s nutritionally sound and totally good for you!

Applesauce Cranberry Cake

Makes 24 slices

Full of flavor, this delicious moist cake looks attractive when made in a Bundt or tube pan. It’s easy to make and keeps well. Serve with fresh fruit desserts, poached pears or sorbets.

¾ cups granulated sugar (425 mL)
¼ cup      soft margarine, at room temperature (50 mL)
1             egg
½ cup      low-fat plain yogurt (25 mL)
2 cups     applesauce (500 mL)
1 tsp       pure vanilla extract (5 mL)
1             Grated rind of 1 medium orange
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (375 mL)
1 ¼ cups whole-wheat flour (300 mL)
1 cup       dried cranberries or raisins (250 mL)
¼ cup      wheat bran (50 mL)
4 tsp        cinnamon (20 mL)
2 tsp        baking soda (10 mL)
½ tsp       ground nutmeg (2 mL)

Lightly grease and flour a 10-inch (25 cm) Bundt pan.

In mixing bowl, beat sugar with margarine until well mixed. Beat in egg until light in colour. Beat in yogurt until mixed. Beat in applesauce, vanilla and orange rind.

In separate bowl, combine all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, cranberries, bran, cinnamon, baking soda and nutmeg; stir to mix. Pour over applesauce mixture and stir just until combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake in 325°F (160°C) oven for 60 to 70 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes, then turn out onto rack and let cool completely.

MAKE AHEAD: Wrap well and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

PER SLICE: 159 calories, 2 g protein, 3 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 33 g carbohydrate, 2 g fibre, 138 mg sodium, 81 mg potassium
Excerpted from Lighthearted at Home. Copyright © 2010 by Anne Lindsay and Associates. Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd.

 

TRAVEL: The floating village in Cambodia

By Tania LaCaria

Life is different for the people who live in the Floating Village of Chong Khneas outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia.

A visit here is not soon forgotten – the architecture, the lifestyle, and the friendly villagers make for an incredible experience. All you have to do is find a Tuk Tuk driver in Siem Reap who will take you over to the village shore for a reasonable rate (put on your best negotiating face because the starting rate for a 45 minute drive will not come cheap).

After you reach the shore, you will have to pay for a ticket on a boat that will tour you around. Eager tourists are to blame for the heavily inflated boat ride prices, but at this point, the high prices are inevitable (Cambodia is notorious for exploiting tourist curiosity), and luckily still affordable by North American standards.

Tuk Tuk drivers assume the role of tour guide as they try to solicit tourists who are intrigued by the sounds of visiting a remote village on the water. Luckily for the fare-hungry drivers, most tourists cannot pass up the opportunity to catch a glimpse of such a different way of life – after all, who wouldn’t want to see an entire community made up of wood structures that are teetering on stilts over the Tonle Sap by boat?

Houses, temples and shops are constructed out of wood boards and stand a couple of metres above the water’s surface. The Tonle Sap stretches far and wide; it is actually the largest lake in all of Southeast Asia, and supplies the 1300 houseboats in the community with freshwater, fish, and one giant recreational swimming pool.

The homes in Chong Khneas are beautifully painted and fully functional. They have makeshift “driveways” with boats tethered to poles, ladders that lead up to the indoor living space, and a storage deck for cows and chickens that is suspended beneath the house (but still above the water).

It’s quite rare to see the trees and shrubs that grow right out of the water. If it weren’t for the deliberately elevated houses, one would think the area had been flooded. It’s a surreal sight to say the least, but it’s nothing more than everyday life as usual for the Chong Khneas community.

The drive over to the Floating Village is just as memorable as the village itself, especially since you cross paths with more smiling children walking along the side of a dusty gravel road than you can count. My experience with children in Cambodia up until I visited the Floating Village had been really sad. All of them in the main tourist areas of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap had approached me begging (literally, tugging on my clothing) for money, food, books, jewelry…anything that they could eat or sell. It is heart-breaking being unable to give money to a single child in a group of 20 kids that seems to turn into a group of 30 kids within a matter of minutes; but despite the poverty and harsh living conditions, the children of Chong Khneas will wave excitedly as you drive by and put on their best I-know-how-to-scream-’hello’-in-English show. It’s a beautiful (and equally heart wrenching) scene. You will be tempted to jump out of the Tuk Tuk and hug them all…which is no problem because they will all want to hug you too.

A visit to the Floating Village is particularly memorable during the Water Festival season. There are various water festivals celebrated in various parts of Cambodia throughout the year, but the most famous takes place in Phnom Penh during October and November. The festival marks the end of the rainy season when the flooded Mekong River finally redistributes its water back out to connected river arteries including the Tonle Sap, and the fishing season commences. In Chong Khneas, you will see children by the boatloads engaging in one giant water-fight on the lake.

They playfully attack each other with large buckets and plastic bags full of water (Cambodia’s version of the water balloon) all in the name of fun. The sounds of deep-belly laughter bounce off the lake and fill the air with genuine sounds of happiness. Even the local monks and novices participate in the celebration. It’s a strange albeit wonderful sight to witness a saffron-robed monk pelt a dripping wet opponent in a nearby tin boat with a water bomb.

It’s refreshing to witness such happiness in a country that is afflicted with the scars of recent genocide (even if it is naive to believe that the temporary laughter is indicative of emotional repair). The pain and suffering of the people of Cambodia knows no boundaries, and yet, most of the people are strong in spirit and determined to persevere in rebuilding a country that is safe, just and stable.

If you haven’t had a chance to experience warm-hearted-Cambodia, be sure to visit Chong Khneas. Just don’t forget to bring an open mind and plenty of benevolence.

 

Tania LaCaria is an award-winning Interior Designer and Decorator from Toronto, Canada. 

One track mind — some guys just don’t get it

By Jen Kirsch

There is no greater turn off than a guy with a one-track mind who – after asking if you’re interested in engaging in some sexual activity (to which you reply ‘Let’s wait until we date each other longer’) – says he understands and respects your decision. Yet despite his words, he continues to ask relentlessly, forcing you to repeat each time the reason you want to wait.

How uncomfortable.

First, this is highly similar to new men asking ‘Can I kiss you?’ before they lean in. Asking and discussing it in advance seems unnatural. Forced even. It gives you a moment to imagine what it would be like, with this imagined notion acting as a distraction, taking you out of the present. Second, when we say no, and he keeps inquiring, he simply comes across as sleazy.

Here are some commonalities to help you stay on the lookout when it comes to men with a one-track mind:

  • He tells you how skilled he is in the sack
  • He tells you that it will be good to get it out of the way so you know whether you share any chemistry
  • He tells you he’s certain he can make you O
  • He guilt trips you for not being interested right off the bat

If you are interested in this guy despite his sexually forward nature, and you can see yourself dating him again, hold on to your self-control and say no. The dating process is all about taking the time to get to know someone. Although sex is one of the most important ingredients in any relationship, it isn’t the only one.

If he’s persistent but you like everything else about him, your tool is repetition. Keep expressing that you want to get to know him better, and that there’s no rush. This kind of guy is one that needs constant reassurance.

There is a chance he could simply be rip-your-pants-off interested. This may however be ‘his thing;’ an approach he takes to sleep with women that more often than not tends to work for him. If he’s forward enough to ask you to have sex with him off the bat, don’t fool yourself into thinking he’s not approaching other women like this as well. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a guy that a) doesn’t listen when I say no and b) has a reputation with other women for being sleazy.

 

Dreaming of wamth

By Heather Lochner

Reader be warned, further reading of this article will result in a rush to book an all-inclusive getaway.

When I was a few years younger I scorned the idea of an all-inclusive vacation. Why, I wondered, would anyone ever want to stay in one place for a week? I prided myself on my audacious ways: staying at hostels, eating food from vendors and walking the streets where scarcely a tourist ventured.

And then I grew up and suddenly the wiles of backpacking lost their allure. I no longer sought daring adventures – I craved relaxation.

It was by chance that my husband and I stumbled upon Club Med Ixtapa. We were looking for a holiday that could accommodate the two of us and our 1 year old son. We had both been to Mexico before (we went sailing, kayaking, and backpacking there) so we knew the weather to be pleasant. Our agent pointed us in the direction of Club Med – telling us the resort is beautiful, located near the sleepy fishing village of Zihuatanejo, and offers a wide range of activities. Hands up baby, hands up!

We’ve been twice.

The accommodation is wonderful. The rooms are clean, generous in size, and sound-proof. The activities are stellar, from archery to sailing, circus school to yoga by the beach. The amenities are fabulous: beachside restaurants, plentiful buffet and an air conditioned gym. The pool is big with plenty of room, but it is the beach that takes the prize. Warm sand, mellow waves and shallow water. Ooh, and let’s not forget – the kid’s club (also known as vacation daycare!).

On a couple of occasions, while our son was at the kid’s club, my husband and I ventured into the town of Zihuatanejo (pronounced: Zee-wa-ta-nay-ho.) It is a beautiful village that is built around a u-shaped bay. The shoreline is a mixture of picturesque beaches, stately homes, and beached fishing boats.

Restaurants line the beaches, enticing tourists and locals to sit down and eat some guacamole, dip some tortillas, and drink some beer. It is hard to resist their allure as life slows down in Zihuatanejo. Not to mention the view is spectacular. My favourite part is the market. Fanning out from the bay are streets upon streets lined with hundreds of vendors selling their wares: traditional Mexican blouses, vanilla, silver and tequila.

Folks, I am telling you, this is a vacation not to be missed. And while you’re there be sure to eat the White Chocolate Bread, it will make your taste-buds beg for more.

Reddit user posts reward for missing dog — the person who took the dog responds and you won’t believe what they say

Reddit user CGDarden took to the Fort Worth section of the social website to post photos and offer a reward for a missing dog.:

CGDarden:
10.5 month old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog “Heidi” was taken from her covered dog run Friday, December 6th between 6pm & 9pm. After thinking she busted through the gate, the police have confirmed the locked horseshoe latch to her run was sawed off. The elements of the bad roads, time in the evening, and the fact that her dog run is completely unseen from the street have left us at a total loss as to who could do this.
Offering a $2,000 reward, no questions asked.

You won’t believe what happens next as a war of words erupts in the comments under the photo when another user admits to being the one who took the dog.

dog2

 

Dogthedogsaver:
Hi there Asshole,
You don’t really know me and I don’t really know you but I have seen you a few times over the last few years. Mostly when you’d let your old dog shit in my lawn and also when your new one would do the same. Thanks for leaving it all for me to pick up too. I really appreciated it.
But even though I don’t really know you, I do know of you and watching you put on such a show to find your dog absolutely disgusts me. Pretending that she was stolen only because she was outside for three hours. For starters, why the fuck did you leave your dog outside in 16 degree weather for three hours!
I’ll let you know what happened though.
I was walking to McDonalds on Friday afternoon and cut through your car port to avoid the ice and that’s when I your dog sitting alone in her dog run looking really miserable. It might have been because it was 20 degrees out or maybe it was because she had no food, water or blanket. Who knows.
Anyway I saw your cars in the driveway and figured she would be okay because no one would leave a sweet dog outside in the cold for very long so I kept on walking. Several hours later I was walking to CVS and noticed that she was still there. I petted her some and couldn’t believe how incredibly cold to the touch she was. As if she’d been outside for hours. I knocked on the door to see if anyone was home but no one answered.
I called animal control and the humane society but no one was available because of the weather. I left for CVS and came back 30 minutes later and she was still there. Not wanting such a sweet dog to freeze to death I headed home, grabbed some tools and headed back. It’s now been close to 7 hours since I first saw her, temps are in the teens and that poor dog is ice cold.
I cut off the lock, took her home and that’s when the real fun started.
She immediately made a bee line for the litter box and started chowing down on crap. I pulled her away and gave her some real dog food which she inhaled. Oh, and she pissed herself while eating too.
And did I mention she’s very thin and malnourished. Because she is and she ate three bowls of food. Seriously, I’ve picked up strays that weren’t as thin or hungry as her. So good job on that one buddy.
Now, what else should I add. How about the fact that she had no collar or tag and that she hasn’t been fixed yet. Seriously? That’s the first thing you get anytime you get a dog. So yea, bravo on that.
Maybe I should add that she doesn’t even recognize her own name, doesn’t know how to play with toys, is covered in a film of filth and has a crap ton of fleas. How the hell do you get fleas in winter!
So yea, I’m confused as to why you’re offering so much for a dog that you seemed to care so little for.
Btw, what happened to your other dog?
Not that it really matters anyway because Heidi is so much happier now. She whines at the door when her new daddy leaves, has a huge back yard to play in and two other dogs her size to play around with. Oh, and she has a doggie door so she can go in and out whenever she wants.
Now please do us all a favor and stop littering the neighborhood with your crap.
Sincerely, A real dog lover
TL:DR You neglected the shit out of your dog. She’s now with a family that will love her and give her the attention she deserves. You’re a piece of shit for trying to look like a victim in all this.

The user then edited the post to include photographic proof that they are now in possession of the dog:

Edit: Proof of happy Heidi

dog3

 

 

 

I’m not sure who is right or who is wrong, but hopefully both parties have Heidi’s best interests at heart and the authorities can come to a reasonable resolution.

 

Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.