New Dog!!!

Christmas 2004 and Nadia found the perfect present for Rob.

She searched the web high and low (not a trivial persuit for a technophobe) and found Tara the Red-Brindle Bullmastiff pup. She is 20 weeks old and we are just talking with the breeder to arrange transport to our home from Ballarat.

Here are some pics of our new family member…

Tara as a new born
7 weeks old – how cute!!!
7 weeks
still 7 weeks
15 weeks – ignore the dates
Still 15 weeks
Tara just before Christmas


This is such a great Italian accompaniment to so many things. Try it instead of mashed potato or just soft with a sauce (like you would pasta). A tomato sauce made with chorizo (spicy italian sausage) is just stunning.

You can also make it and set it in the fridge on an oiled tray. Then you cut it into shapes (I use triangles) and grill or BBQ it to go with just about any meat dish. Try flavouring it with a little chopped chilli (even out of a bottle) or some lightly fried herbs like rosemary. YUM!

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Frico of Potatoes

This one is from Udine, Italy and comes courtesy of Gianni.

Serves 4 as an “easy second plate” (separate course)

Time – 50 mins

Wine – Riesling dell’Isonzo (or a good Aussie semillion blanc would be fine also)

Note – this is not a Weight Watchers’ receipe but is yummy!

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Happy Birthday Rob!

I think it’s a safe bet to say that it takes a REAL friend to hack into your blog to post a birthday message, compared to just sending an email.

So … happy birthday mate. Hope you have a great time, and I look forward to celebrating with you when you get back!



Now, you’d think that keeping to a ring-road that is about 60km from the centre of Rome would be safe, right? Well! Italian drivers in the rest of the country had just been softening us up for the main course…

In Rome, if you can’t fit six or seven cars into three lanes along with various motor cycles, push bikes and a bit of traffic debris, you’re just not trying! The 1/4 hour trip around the “ring-road” takes nearly two hours when what looks like a ring-road on the map actually turns out to be a car park!

Of course, about 50m from the airport turnoff when Rob needed to get across a lane or two was when traffic sped up. Still, we didn’t hear any crunching of metal as such so it must have been all right! And, we’re sure they’re over it by now, anyway!

Having returned our car to Avis, we set off to find the train into the city (and to find out just why you shouldn’t carry around any more luggage than you absolutely have to)! The train was great but the change to local trains, of course, involved walking a fair way. Not as far as getting to the B&B however which we made OK but swore that, when we left, we were going to get a taxi!

Arriving at the B&B, we encountered the Italian version of the Concierge. This was a really lovely lady who guarded the front door to the apartments. She immediately spotted us and said (in Italian) you must be the Australians. She then popped us into the lift and sent us up to the 7th floor to meet our host.

The actual B&B was great and run by a middle aged lady who was about the most hospitable host we had encountered. Rob waited a while to find out what her angle was and whether she was going to be another B&B Nazi, but she was entirely genuine and just lovely.

After a simple lunch at the local bar, Rob was absolutely shattered (actually, as he was a bit ill, this was the case before the lunch but worse after) and Nadia was getting worried about the number of clean clothes we had (about a pair of sox between us and nothing else – not a good look in a big city). While Rob crashed on the bed, Nadia set off on a mission to find a launrdomat that was “somewhere in that direction” and returned a few hours later with a bag of freshly washed clothes. We finished off the day with a reasonable pizza (not as good as Luigino’s but not bad) at a local pizzaria.

Next day (Wednesday) saw us heading for the Vatican City. We had heard that the Pope addressed the general rabble every Wednesday and wanted to be part of it. From our B&B, getting there was quite a pleasant 25 minute walk if you don’t include waiting at a Post Office to be ignored, insulted and ignored again by the worlds most incompetent postal official (which was neither part of the 25 minutes nor pleasant).

Despite the postal official’s best efforts to stop us, we arrived at Piazza San Pietro and made it through the metal detectors in good time to see the Pope who was quite amazing for a man his age. The appearance lasted probably an hour and a half or more during which he responded and prayed in five or more different languages. Not surprisingly, the place is pretty well set up for the appearances and, even though we were about 100M away, we had a great view on the huge screens and could hear just fine.

After seeing the Pope, we headed for the Sistine Chapel. You get to this by degrees by going through the Vatican Museums. These are immense and filled with the most stunning collection of art and antiquities. The collection was started in 1506 by Pope Julius II and is a serious 4+ turtle collection with paintings, statues, furniture… There is a separate “room” (and by room, I mean pavillion) dedicated just to maps and globes of the world. Yes, it’s THAT big and even more impressive. Even the steps are an artwork. The main spiral staircase was created by Bramante and could be ridden up on horseback in case of Papal emergencies.

After about an hour of following the route (one of the routes) through the museums, we finally came to the Sistine Chapel. This was being cleaned (just about finished) when Nadia last visited some years ago and to say that the colours are bright and vibrant is an understatement. The traction you have to go through after standing there gawking at the ceiling is well worth it. The best thing about it being packed was that you would need to really search to find room to fall over from looking up. We’re sure that a serious art student would have gotten more out of the experience, but we know what we like and that is definately included!

Another hour saw us out of the museums (and fed and souvenired) and off to St Peter’s Basilica. The line was immense but moved quickly and any wait was well rewarded when you get inside. The first Christian basilica was built on the site by Emporer Constantine in 324 AD. Pope Julius II comissioned Bramante and Raphael, amongst others, to rebuild it in 1506. Michaelangelo also worked on it sporadically and it was consecrated in 1626. This building has to be seen to be believed. The 150m cupola tops the largest brick dome ever built (more traction required!). The highlights for us were the Piet