Archive for April, 2013

The Secret Room at the Naples Archeological Museum

Posted on April 9, 2013. Filed under: Art, Italy, Travel | Tags: , , , , , |

 347 napoli archaeology museum

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I thought I would stay on the topic of Naples and Pompeii today.  After a visit to the archeological site of Pompeii, it is a great idea to get to the museum in nearby Naples because that is where all the fragile and really valuable artifacts from the site are held.  There is some gorgeous glassware that looks so fragile, but somehow survived the whole disaster.  There are lots of cooking vessels and exquisite bronzes and mosaics.  It really fleshes out even more what that sumptuous town was like in its heyday.

The museum also holds the “Secret Room,” depository of bizarre phallic symbols and art works of all manner of sexual visuals. Apparently the ancients had a fascination with their genitals and the act of procreation. In Pompeii we toured the brothel complete with little “offices” equipped with stone beds/pillows and paintings on the walls meant to “inspire.” Also, below is a picture of a painting in the entryway to a home depicting the owner displaying his enormous wares for all who enter.

288 mary at brothel          283 pompeii envy entry way

Naples is definitely worth a visit, both for the pizzerias and the archeological museum!

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Naples: The Birthplace of Pizza

Posted on April 8, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Italy, Travel | Tags: , , , , |

 Travel - 343 napoli street                       Travel - 342 mary at pizzaria

When in Naples, en route from the archeological site of Pompeii, we had to have pizza in the birthplace of the stuff.  We walked our way through the narrow streets, darkened on this sunny day by the tall buildings with a lot of laundry strung between, and mindful of the crime rate which is high.  But we were determined to get to Pizzeria da Michele, established in 1870 and yes, this was before it became even more famous by Julia Roberts and her role in, “Eat, Pray, Love.”

There was a crowd outside waiting for their number to come up.  A lot of people had guidebooks in their hands as this place is recommended by every one of them.  The best sign, though, was the many local people in the place already eating.  We somehow got a number and also let the man know we didn’t understand the Italian numbers he was shouting out.  He indicated he would just point to us.  How we got this all arranged without any common words between us was amazing!  I find that if you keep smiling and indicate as best you can what you need, people figure you out!

Travel - Naples pizza oven          Travel - Naples Pizza

Once in, ordering was easy:  Pizza Margherita or Pizza Marinara (basically with fresh basil or without!)  At the time we were there it was €5 for a pizza and a beer.  We watched the locals who cut it in strips and rolled it up to eat.  Cool!

Travel -  pizza to eat!

The website for the restaurant says they are famous for their dough and it is great, but I think it’s the combination of the extreme heat of the wood oven, the dough, the fresh tomatoes, cheese and basil.  Wow.  But don’t expect this to be pizza that you are used to from the U.S.  This is a simple version, very clean in it’s flavor, and not overly done with cheese.  When you have eaten your whole pizza and had your beer you feel good, not stuffed to the gills!  I’d like to go back and sample the other pizzerias in town.  It’s always good to have a reason to return to a place!

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Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc – Swiss Mushrooms

Posted on April 7, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Plants, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , |

Travel - mushroom in Switzerland

There is a section of the Tour du Mont Blanc hiking trail in Switzerland where there are signs with information about edible/poisonous mushrooms in the woods.  And, indeed, we saw some mushrooms on this section!  Too bad we didn’t have cooking facilities to harvest and enjoy any of the edibles.  I can’t imagine something like this in the U.S. because of the liability.  One mistake here and you are a goner!  But, if you are knowledgeable like my neighbor Shirley, you can have a treasure trove of delectable eats right from your own forest hike!  I am trying to learn her vast mushroom knowledge.  This is definitely a specialty art/science that is mostly lost in today’s world.  Years ago, though, the forest provided a bounty to those with eyes to see!

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Avocado Vegetable Sauce and Easy Salad Dressing

Posted on April 6, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health | Tags: , , |

Food - Avocado vegetable sauce          Food - Avocado vegetable sauce

So, more steamed veggies tonight?  Kind of boring, huh?  How about a great and healthy sauce for them?  Cut up some avocados (I used 3 small ones) and a lemon.  Grate the lemon peel into the bowl with the avocados and squeeze the living juice out of the lemon right into the bowl too.  Add a little olive oil and seasoned vinegar and puree with your immersion blender right in the bowl (or if you haven’t bought one of these brilliant machines yet – why are you waiting?! – put it all into a regular blender and whirl away.)  Also nice to add is some garlic powder, salt and pepper if you have it.  Top with fresh chopped cilantro or parsley if you like.

This makes a yummy topping for any steamed vegetables.  I used it on asparagus for Easter and it was a hit!

Food - Avocado vegetable sauce

While you have the oil and vinegar out, put them into a glass bottle with some ground black pepper and a nice blend of dried herbs/spices like shallots, chives, garlic, and onion (Penzeys has a great one for this called Fox Point Seasoning.)  Shake and you are good to go.  No chemical additives needed!  No artificial flavoring or coloring!  (Have you checked the label on those plastic bottles of salad dressing in the store?  Yuck!)  This takes 2 minutes, is really good for you, easy, and cheap!!

Happy veggie eating all you springtime bunnies out there!

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Superfood Energy Balls Made Simple

Posted on April 5, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Food - Superfood Energy Balls 1          Food - Superfood Energy Balls 2

I love the whole concept of the energy ball or bite (scooped into balls or cut into cubes).  If you have a food processor you can whip these up in a jiffy!  Today’s offering is packed with superfoods.  I find them perfect for a holdover when I’m hungry but I still have a meal to cook, or when I’m having to delay a meal because of an appointment, or even for a super easy, tasty dessert!

These balls have superfood ingredients I ordered from which proved to be an economical place to order as well as friendly!  Here is the recipe and the one thing I learned and will do differently next time.


1/2 C. ground almonds

1/2 C. ground pecans

1/4 C. flaxseed meal

1/2 C. unsweetened grated coconut

1 T. maca powder

1/4 C. shelled hemp seed

1 T. mequite powder

1 T. cacao powder

1 T. cracked cell chlorella powder

6 pitted medjool dates

1/4-1/2 C. cashew milk (make super easy by blending soaked raw cashews and water)

Mix all above really thoroughly and then add 1/4 C. tart dried cherries and 1/4 C. cacao nibs for a quick mix.  Then use a small cookie scoop to make about 40 balls.  I rolled them in coconut sugar which became sticky and runny after awhile because of the moisture in the balls.  You would be better off rolling them in coconut or crushed nuts.  Next time!

Just a note about chlorella and it’s cousin, spirulina which I think can be used pretty much interchangeably.  If you smell these powders you may be tempted to throw them out because they are very unappetizing!  Same thing for tasting them all on their own.  But they are worth consuming because these dried algae (yep, basically pond scum!!) are PACKED with amazing health benefits.  In a recipe like this you really will not even know it is there by the taste, but your body will be smiling on a cellular level.  Trust me, it’s worth it!

I’m on about week 4 now of the anti-inflammation eating plan and I feel great!  Mood and energy are up so I’m going to stay with it for awhile.

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Wondrous Pompeii

Posted on April 4, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Travel | Tags: , , , , , |

299 mary at birdbath

Going to Pompei is like entering a time capsule.  You can really imagine how people lived…

284 pompeii frescos

their sumptuously decorated homes with beautiful courtyards, elaborately painted rooms, and piped in running water.

270 road

You can walk right down the very roads they walked and you can feel the ruts from the iron chariot wheels.  You can really get a sense of the beauty living in this little coastal town in the first century.  But it is also sobering because…

270 pompeii plaster cast

many people suffered and died here on the last day when Mt. Vesuvius blew up and covered the town in small rocks, ash, and then molten rock.  Here is a plaster cast made of one of the bodies left in the destruction after Pompeii had been rediscovered in the middle 1700s.  It’s a heartbreaking pose of self-preservation, but alas, the person didn’t make it.

In spite of this harsh reality this is a spectacular place to visit and I am eternally grateful for my sister making me go on the last day of our trip!  I’m hoping to visit again and add Herculaneum to the archeological sites to see as it was another town covered by this same eruption.

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Hiking the Cinque Terre – Vernazza to Riomaggiore

Posted on April 3, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Cinque 1

Here is my second installment of Hiking the Cinque Terre as promised.  We did the 8 miles south from Vernazza to Riomaggiore on this second day.  It was the second week of November and the weather was perfect!  In the above photo we are down at the water.  We took a little side trail steeply down to get to it.

Travel - Cinque 2        Travel - Cinque 4

Above on the left we are leaving Vernazza in the morning with a stunning view of the town.  It is hard to believe all those buildings teeter on those rocks!  The picture at right is the beach at Manarola where we enjoyed rock hunting.  These are some of the smoothest stones I’ve ever felt and I rock hunt every time I can so I have a lot of beaches to compare this to.  For a massage therapist these stones are heaven!  Many of them have veins of the white carrara marble from which Michelangelo’s David is carved.  The marble quarries are not far away.

Travel - Cinque 3          Travel - Cinque 5

I’ve been asked about how wild is this trail and you can see from the picture at left that here it is an actual paved staircase winding down, down, down.  I would not call this much of a wilderness trail.  The towns are so close together and the last section is entirely paved and level.  This is more of a walking path to enjoy this beautiful coastline and these little towns.  The picture at right shows 3 local men chatting at the end of the day in Riomaggiore.  The townsfolk come out to enjoy the view and fresh air at the end of the day.  These are real Italian towns, but this hiking is quite civilized!

Travel - Cinque 6

Here is Bill at the end of our day with dinner.  That’s a pizza on the right with fresh arugula strewn on top and on the left is Farinata, a local specialty, a chickpea flour pancake-type thing.  I found out much later that you are supposed to put the farinata on top of the pizza and eat it together!!  Oh well, both hit a spot at the end of the day even if we ate them separately!

All in all we enjoyed our 2 days in the Cinque Terre very much.  We think we might go back some time to hike the higher trails.  We did go in November which meant the boats weren’t running, but other than that we were glad we came when it was so quiet.

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Hiking the Cinque Terre – Vernazza to Monterosso

Posted on April 2, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , |

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A few years back we hiked the Cinque Terre (literally 5 lands) in Italy.  These pictures are from our first day there.  We hiked from Vernazza, where we were staying, north to Monterosso and then took the little train back which connects all the towns.  This was the most challenging part of the trail being pretty hilly, but at a little over 2 miles, it was not really hard.  We had a little drizzle at one time, and we had a good chuckle at a few Germans who instantly outfitted themselves head-to-foot in rain gear, but we got to watch the sunset over Monterosso as we approached from up high.  Also, we got our first glimpse of all the tiny vinyards on the terraced hills.  These lands have been divided by so many family members over the years that now one might now own and manage the tiniest of plots!

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The trail often wandered right along barriers to these plots.  Here is Bill near a fence and up above there is the cutest gate, I don’t think it will keep anyone out but it sure is picturesque!  Next up, tales from the rest of the 8 mile-trail from Vernazza south to Riomaggiore!

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The Tour du Mont Blanc and Blueberries

Posted on April 1, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, France, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Blueberries 3Blueberries were a theme on the TMB.  We found them in fabulous tarts all over the place although I made the mistake of asking for the blueberry tart at one stop.  They didn’t know what I wanted.  I saw someone with a slice and so I pointed and they said, “Oh, myrtilles!”  In the photo above I am in a wonderful restaurant, “La P’tite Verte” in Argentière, France.  Below is the farm kitchen on the Bovine Stage where the lady had just put out all those gorgeous pieces of pie!  Boy, did that hit a spot.

Travel - TMB Blueberries 2

Lastly, here’s Bill picking and eating his own wild blueberries right along the trail on the last day.

Travel - TMB Blueberries 1They were a little tart, but quite refreshing for our rest stop!

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Tomato Fondue in Trient, Switzerland

Posted on April 1, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , |

Travel - Tomato Fondue 1      Travel - Tomato Fondue 2

Here we are at the refuge called “Relais du Mont Blanc,” just about the only place to stay in Trient, Switzerland, a tiny hamlet on our hiking trip, the Tour du Mont Blanc.  The refuge/hotel was clean and friendly but old and a bit cramped.  This tomato fondue, though, was sublime!  We shared this pot with Susan and Patricia, two hiking mates.  We were served a bowl of beautifully steamed white potatoes to go with the fondue.  It was so filling and tasty!  We asked the server how it was made and she said it was melted cheese with homemade tomato sauce along with a little beer to thin it.  Wow, that cheesy sauce over those beautiful potatoes was so hearty after a long day of hiking.  Of course, I had every intention of recreating the dish at home.  I even bought a fondue pot for it!  I will report when I get around to that!

Happy Easter everyone!

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