Friday 29 November 2013

A Thousand Days in Venice - #book review for The Cephalopod Coffehouse.

I'm about to head off for my next overseas adventure in a few days, so out of time. Therefore I'm re-posting a book review I wrote for the Reading at Dawn book review blog, for one of my favourite genres - travel memoir. I have quite a collection as you can imagine. Here is just one of my favourites...

And before I get underway, I must advise you that I use Grammarly for english proofreading because I really like the idea of Grammarly as a metaphor for sentinels standing guard over my writing, slashing and burning all those typos, spelling and punctuation errors and grammar mistakes, but obviously kind enough to overlook my mixed metaphors.

A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi - a travel memoir

Travel memoirs are charming books that tell the often-enhanced travel stories of people just like us but who get to travel, then write about it, then travel some more...and write about it. Now that's me! 

Another much-loved fiction author is the effervescent Italian, Adrianna Trigiani, who has this to say - "The great Marlena de Blasi writes fairy tales for grown ups." Well, this book, and others that Marlena has since written, are my kind of fairy tale.

A Thousand Days In Venice is a charming story about love found late in life and straight away the story will resonate with many readers. Marlena is a divorced American chef who decides to leave her material possessions and America behind and travel to Venice, Italy, and lo and behold she finds love with a "blueberry-eyed Venetian." At first she thinks she is too old for romantic love and intimacy and wants to run away, but is inexplicably drawn into a romance which would seem to most, utterly impossible. 

Marlena chooses to take a risk, to follow her heart and venture out into a world of new possibilities. She leaves her well-established life in the U.S, two grown children and a beautiful home in St. Louis to begin a new life with a Venetian she calls "the stranger..." 

...which I thought was a bit strange. It bothered me how she called this man, Fernando, "The Stranger," not just when she first met him, but throughout most of the book. Maybe she thought it added to the strange allure of Venice, a city where the idea of meeting and making love to a stranger is folklore, especially during Carnavale.

Fernando, "The Stranger" is at times demanding in his wishes, which was strange since it was Marlena who was making the big changes, not him. He really wasn't the one giving up anything. He was also rather controlling in day-to-day living, just as you would expect of the stereotypical pampered adult male Mumma's boy used to getting what he wants. He imposes his wishes on her and expects her to conform, yet you can tell Marlena isn't the type who would usually be pushed around by a man. I'm glad I gritted my teeth at his at times mincing habits as he did change later as the relationship developed.

As you can imagine, this is a mammoth crossroads in Marlena's life and she turns to her best friend Misha for advice. As Marlena is struggling with her feelings about this new-found love and discussing the ramifications with Misha she receives some poignant advice:

"Now that it has presented itself to you, could you dare to imagine turning away form it for anything or anyone?" 

Misha tells of love she has once known:

"I was afraid that the sentiments would change. I was afraid of some form of betrayal and so I walked away. I betrayed it before it could betray me. And maybe I thought life inside that intensity would suffocate me. So I chose a sort of pleasant, safe compromise, an emotion less than passion and more than tolerance. Isn't that what most of us choose?"

Don't most of us more often than not choose the "safe road" in our lives?  Doing a Robert Frost and choosing 'the road less travelled' can be a scary thought and there are not many of us that have the stomach for it. I've read other memoirs of 50-somethings who run away from their life, find another country, find another man, and live either happily or confusedly ever after (check our the Australian Mary Moody's books on escaping to France. Hot. Hot. Hot.) Marlena's story was bringing up conflicting emotions for me as I both admired her for it, and felt maybe she was a little crazy for it too, especially with 'The Stranger' who I know I couldn't live with for a minute! But, ah, Venice I could live with forever!

Marlena de Blasi has a very descriptive writing style which is beautiful and lush. She takes you right into the streets of Venice. You can smell and see the foods that she describes with her chef's eye and palate and I could visualise myself walking down those same fascinating streets or sitting by the Adriatic Sea. (I've since visited Venice and followed in Marlena's footsteps but I took my own non-'stranger' with me.) There were many thoughtful and insightful paragraphs that grabbed me in this book. Marlena. de Blasi makes you ponder choices in life and imagine wonderful worlds of possibilities that might just be in reach after all. But possibly more so in Venice than anywhere else, seeing as it is one of the most fascinating and romantic cities in the world.

This was the first book of Marlena de Blasi's that I had read. I've since read all her travels through Italy - Tuscany and Umbria. Beautiful. Exciting. Being a chef, she has written at least two cookbooks on regional Italian food. 

  • Would you like to be swept off your feet by an unexpected romance?
  • Would you give up your home country for your new love? 
  • Do you enjoy reading travel narratives? Tell me about them...
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Thursday 21 November 2013

Write...Edit...Publish 'SHARING'. LOVE AND TRAVEL.

Hi fellow travellers in this theatre called life. For WEP's SHARING I'm comparing love and travel. I fly north to experience another Northern Hemisphere holiday season in just a few days. Naturally, travel is where my mind is. 

This trip...Amsterdam, Paris, Prague, Spain, Portugal and Morocco - 5 exciting weeks! 

Here's what I've learned so far re travel and love...


When it comes to travel, thinking about it, planning it, is half the fun.

ANTICIPATION is a crucial phase of any journey. It's the promise that life will be more exciting than your everyday routine. Watching a sunset over the Sahara Desert, choosing which outdoor cafe to indulge your love of freshly-caught mussels in garlic cream sauce in the French Quarter in Paris, seeing the fairytale city of Prague for the first time, is probably going to be more fun than getting out of bed, running in the park, walking to work, working...isn't it just? 

We want the same thing from travel that we want from love - a life-changing encounter with destiny. Plus fantastic scenery and food.

'Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.'                 (Mark Twain (1835-1910

The streets of Marrakesh
just made for exploring.


Getting there won't be half the fun if you are lugging too much luggage! If it won't fit into your carry-on luggage, leave it at home.

LIVING OUT OF A SUITCASE is not fun, but it's even less fun when it's the old cram, sit, zip scenario. 
Here are some of my tips for light travel:

  • plan to dress as if you're heading out to the store on Saturday morning. That's the kind of comfort you need when travelling. 
  • plan to wear every article of clothing multiple times. There's no room in your luggage for superfluous clothes. (They do have laundries overseas.) 
  • discover how little you really need in order to have the time of your life. Travel is not a fashion show - the people you meet will usually only see you in your outfit once! Let them screw up their nose at your fashion sense in that's all they've got to do!

A Lady's List

A small flask of brandy
Smelling salts
Light literature
Cushions covered in chintz or satin for putting under the feet
Suede gloves in Summer
Woolen muffatees in Winter
Fine yellowish brown paper to line the drawers of inns: There is something not particularly tempting in the idea of placing one's possessions in a place where one does not know what preceded them.         

Lillias Campbell Davidson - 'Hints to Lady Travellers at Home and Abroad'. (1889)

I can delete everything on that list except 'light literature' in the form of my Kindle, lol!


ARRIVING in a new place is a lot like love at first sight. The way a traveller feels on the first day of a journey, the first day in a new country, a new city. You feel giddy, gullible, stupid. 

Travel author Vivian Swift recounts arriving in Paris in 2005 - "There is no smoking allowed in the airport terminal," she said in perfect French to the woman who'd lit up a Marlboro. 
The woman looked at her sharply - "Zeez deestarib you?" In other words who could object to a little cigarette smoke, for God's sake? She drops the butt to the floor and crushes it with the leather toe of her tiny Roger Vivier ballerina flat. 
I could kiss her, Vivian recounts, for now I know that I have really and truly arrived in Paris!

Oh yes! Bring it on!

Another view from the Eiffel Tower

Sorry, it gives me vertigo too!

Love and travel both begin with a secret wish for a life with more adventure, more passion. But things can go wrong, as they do. Be prepared. But there's nothing bad about getting lost, you just discover more! Getting lost in Venice is a highlight of my life!


Much have I travell'd in realms of gold, and many goodly states and kingdoms seen, round many western islands have I been...felt I like some watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into his ken: or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes he star'd at the Pacific - and all his men look'd at each other with wild surmise - silent, upon a peak in Darien.                      

John Keats (1795-1821)


I came. I saw, I conquered.                    Julius Caesar (100BCE-44BCE)

With many thanks to:
Vivian Swift's Le Road Trip - A Traveler's Journal of Love and France.

And here is a photo taken in Broome, Western Australia, if any of you should aspire to visit our shores Down Under. Rather amazing, right?

What are your philosophies on travel? Share...
Click on the links in my right-hand sidebar for entries after the 22nd. 

Friday 1 November 2013

COLOUR - Choosing a colour to suit your brand. What colour are you?

Hello fellow bloggers!

Well, Halloween's over. The HAUNTING blogfest was excellent. Now I have to decide which story intrigued me most for the $10 Amazon Gift Card. Thank you to all the participants! What great quality stories, poems and photos!

Yes, I'm huddled away beginning my latest NaNovel, but I love blogging so much I decided not to take a hiatus;  rather I prepared a few posts ahead of schedule. I will come by after I put in my writing hours and comment.
Today I'm going to share something with you that I've been pondering awhile. I keep changing my blog look because I'm never happy with my colours. That has partly been because I'm a pink girl, and haven't wanted to shout that out too loudly in case those of you who are deep, dark and serious take one look and run! Egad!
I've finally stopped toying with pink and embraced my favourite colour (which is closely followed by white and blue). I've worked up a collage for my new header which says it all - I love Pink. Hope you like it.
Look around you at the different colours that represent various bloggers in the community. We have Roland Yeoman's black, Donna Hole's yellow, Alex J Cavanaugh's blue, J. L. Campbell's pinkish tones, Yolanda Renee's brown (now she's gone and changed some of it!) Somehow these colours just seem right for these bloggers. Why? If they read this, I hope they'll tell us!
Colour selection is one of the key elements of building a strong brand. Every colour has a different feel and associations. By choosing a colour or a combination of colors for your brand, you will take on those associations. Colours will evoke certain emotions and feelings towards your brand so it's vital to choose a colour that will represent your identity effectively.
There's been a ton of research on this topic, and I can but scratch the surface today. It has been shown that people make a subconscious judgement about a person, and other social media...within 90 seconds of their initial viewing. Between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on colour alone. Getting the message? Colour is HUGE! 
Where to start? Colour symbolizes your product, in this case you and your social media presence. By combining the same colours (usually two or three), your brand will be recognizable on any social media, very useful if you have a product to promote.
Have you heard of the great new tool to help with color selection--Cymbolism? It’s an interactive survey of colour and word associations. Every page loads a new word, for which you have to select a colour you feel best represents it. You can see most popular associations either by colour or by word in the image below.
To help you select the right colour for your brand, here are the results from Cymbolism, and there are some examples of brands that use each colour:

Now do you think this chart represents your colour choices? I decided my pink (belonging to the purple spectrum) pretty much describes me -- romantic (and a little bit Victorian, haha), decadent (with my love of chocolate and other sensuous things in life), elegant, stylish ( my dreams)...but overall, pink describes my personality pretty much to a T. 

Perhaps you align yourself with the brands who choose not to associate themselves with one colour. Instead of two or three colours, they choose four or more. This represents variety. These brands are usually platforms that host a vast amount of different applications or goods.
There are also two more colours that haven’t made it on the list: black and white. These are arguably not even colours, and they will go well with pretty much everything you choose. In Western culture, white is considered the colour of purity and peace, but in some parts of Asia white is the colour of death. However, cultural differences aside, on a social media platform white provides a clean background to add images/text to. (Many people prefer to read black text on a white background above all others.) Black is a heavy colour, but also complementary to many others. Used on a blog or other social media site it would suggest serious, deep and dark to all who come by.
Look through the table above for a quick overview of what each colour represents. Of course, your opinion may differ. Some questions to ask yourself:
  • What colour represents me--thus your brand's personality?
  • What colour suits the characteristics of my product/service?
  • What colour will give my readers the best impression the first time they see it?
You aren’t limited to one colour. Some brands like eBay choose to go with many colors to represent variety — but you can also choose a couple of colours that work well together. I like pink, white and blue.
In the competitive world of colour selection, it is often suggested you pick a different colour than that of your competitors. If you are a romance writer, for example, nothing says it like pink, (unless of course you write dark paranormal romance etc.) so you will have to find something edgy so you don't blend homogeneously into the background. Find something to make your pink more alluring than all the others.
If you're interested in further reading on this topic, I've found some links. I haven't checked all of them recently, so some may be dead, but here are some tools and resources you may find useful:

Articles and Resources:


Dimitry Fadeyev, A Guide to Choosing Colours for Your Brand, 2008

  • What do your colours say about you? 
  • Did you find this post helpful?