Archive for September, 2013

The Italian Lakes

Posted on September 21, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Travel | Tags: , |

Travel - Italian Lakes 1

We’re just back from our trip which included the Italian Lakes Region.  These lakes are beautiful and interesting for a few reasons.  They have been important to the area for thousands of years so there is a lot of activity all around each of these lakes.  They have quintessential Italian villages dotting their shores and hillsides.  These lakes are primarily long and skinny in shape so sometimes they seem more like rivers and they have huge cliffs along their shores, some belonging to actual mountains.

Travel - Italian Lakes 2

  Travel - Italian Lakes 3

There are a multitude of activities in the lakes region.  Hang gliding is popular from the mountain tops.  Hiking and shopping also rank high.  The ferry boats are efficient, enjoyable and inexpensive for getting across the waters to explore different areas.  Bellagio lives up to its reputation as a touristy shopping paradise.  But we also found it to offer a quiet haven for a beer and an espresso at the waterfront after a stroll along its beautifully landscaped promenade.

Travel - Italian Lakes 4I love the complimentary chips and jumbo olives too!

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Tour du Mont Blanc – Fenetre d’Arpette at Last!

Posted on September 20, 2013. Filed under: Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Fenetre 4

We went back this year to the Tour du Mont Blanc and hiked a piece of it we missed last year.  Bill had a sore knee and this variant of the route warned of joint-crushing boulder climbing so we took the easier, though no less scenic, Bovine Route.  This year, feeling better, we went up to the Fenetre from the pretty little town of Champex Lac and then back down to the town.

Travel - TMB Fenetre 1

Here is the view of where we were going.  The little dip in the skyline right above the road is the Fenetre.  Doesn’t look so far, huh?

Travel - TMB Fenetre 2

I think this was probably the hardest way to do this because the route on the other side looks less rocky from the pictures I’ve seen, but we had a great place to stay in Champex which made for a nice thing to look forward to after the hard hike.  We also had a car which made it more difficult to do through hiking this time.  As you can see this is a very rocky path, and this is after the harder part of nothing but boulders.  If it weren’t for my trekking poles I could never have done this!

Travel - TMB Fenetre 3

At the top, though, there is quite a payoff with an amazing view of the Trient glacier, and the world’s tallest dammed lake.  I was amazed that it wasn’t very windy.  Every other Col I had been to had been brutally windy, but it was calm and sunny this day.  Really, we had perfect weather, lucky for September.Travel - TMB Fenetre 5The gourmet meal at the lovely Hotel Alpina at the end of the day really hit the spot!

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Rocks from the Dolomite Mountains

Posted on September 19, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Travel | Tags: , , , , |

Travel - Souvenirs Dolomite Roacks

We are just back from a 16-day trip to the Italian Lakes and the Dolomite Mountains.  Most of the shops that we came across either offered the usual kitchy souvenir junk, or extremely high-end clothing or home furnishings.  My favorite souvenirs, therefore, are the photographs I take, locally-produced foods, and rocks I find along the way.  Here are my dolomite representatives showing the three colors we primarily saw:  white, green and pink.  I especially like the biggest one with sparkly areas where it has broken to show the interior.  I found that one on a particularly difficult hike down a mountain where the path was all boulders.  I will never forget conquering that section!

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Italian Wild Cherries in Sauce

Posted on September 19, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Italy, Travel | Tags: , , , |

Food - Italian Cherries 1      Food - Italian Cherries 2

This is a sad and a happy tale.  Just back from my trip to Europe with my favorite kinds of souvenirs:  local foods.  The sad tale is that I bought a jar of these beauties, the Amarena wild cherry of Bologna, Italy, a few years ago in a little Italian food shop in San Francisco not realizing that it would be viewed as a dreaded “liquid” by the TSA which promptly confiscated it.  I was hopping mad, but alas, there was nothing to be done about it.  My checked bag was already on its way to being loaded and we needed to board the plane soon anyway.  I vowed, however, to get some of these the next time I could, having read about how luscious they are in a food magazine.

Fast forward to the last two weeks I spent primarily in Italy:  while visiting a food shop I spied these on the shelf!  It’s a huge jar at 2 lb. 10 oz. and only about $20 so I grabbed it.  This time it traveled home in my checked bag and I’ve been enjoying a drizzle of the sauce with a few of the gem-like cherries on chocolate ice cream in the evening.  Wow.  It was worth the wait!  I see online sellers have these now and I will probably be ordering more of these after they run out and before my next trip to Italy.

I’m all for the local food souvenir.  First, it is fascinating to poke around in foreign food shops.  Second, do I really need another sweater, hat, necklace, knickknack, etc. ad nauseum?  How about tasting the tastes of the country you were in after you get back home?  Talk about extending the life of the vacation!

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Tour du Mont Blanc and Swiss Preparedness

Posted on September 16, 2013. Filed under: Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Swiss Woodpile

It was impressive to walk through a little bit of alpine Switzerland and witness the amazing preparedness of these people.  Can you believe this woodpile?  After this picture I went around the back to use it for cover and, surprise!  There is another pile exactly like this right behind this one!  I was impressed with many woodpiles like this one that we walked past.

Travel - TMB Swiss Chard      Travel - TMB Swiss Preparedness

In addition, the gardens were beautiful!  Look at that chard!  I wonder if it’s still called Swiss Chard when growing right here in Swiss soil?

Travel - TMB Swiss BouldersIt’s beautiful in September, but the people around here must know brutal winter is coming.  The mountains have thrown down boulders the size of houses so they know.  Many of these boulders are big enough to climb all by themselves.  We ran across a climber who told us he was starting with boulder-climbing to get ready for sheer rock wall climbing.

All-in-all I was pretty amazed by Switzerland and these hardy mountain dwellers!

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My Mom the Hoot

Posted on September 15, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy | Tags: , , |

mom in red jacket

Today is my mom’s birthday, and even though she is in heaven today, I think of her because of her pithy sayings.  The older I get, the more these words ring in my head and actually come out of my mouth!

Are you ready?  Some are a bit crass.  She was never afraid to be crass if there was a laugh at stake!

Use your head for something other than a hat rack.

If you don’t like it, lump it.

I like me, who do you like?

Better late than never.

You luparsh! (flabby-ass in Polish slang)

Wait?  Wait broke down the bridge.

Shit isn’t swearing.  If you can’t shit you’re sick.

Never put off for tomorrow what can be done today.

Ee-er-sen-si-woo-loo-chai-bai-joow-shi, you think I’m crazy, my mother rides around in a little red kiddie car.  (Make string motion between ears as though flossing the brain.)

Don’t wish your life away.

(Any pen that wasn’t fine-tipped)- This isn’t a pen, it’s a paintbrush.

What do you want, egg in your beer?

No time like the present.

Don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today.

You’re ATNA – all talk no action!


As you can imagine, she could be a handful.  She was also incredibly strong-willed and optimistic.  I will miss her always.

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Roman Mosaics

Posted on September 14, 2013. Filed under: Art, Italy, Rome, Travel | Tags: , , , , |

31 mosaic

When you go to Rome you will remember that the Romans did fabulous mosaics.  You will not, however, be prepared for how masterful and prolific they were.

33 mosaic hippo

These are spectacular ancient examples from the National Museum.  But you will see them virtually everywhere including St. Peter’s where artisans copied paintings in micro-mosaic so finely that you cannot tell it is not a painting.  Theydid this because of the candle and incense smoke damage that would occur to real paintings.

32 mosaic birds

The detail in this work is fantastic.  I like to think of the hands that placed each tile.  It was a rich culture indeed that could produce such exquisite handiwork.









34 mosaic geometric

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Wheatless Pizza

Posted on September 13, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple | Tags: , , , |

Food - PizzasI wrote about homemade pizza back in February, when I was still eating wheat.  Here is my wheatless version.  It turned out great if a bit too thin.  I couldn’t get it all the way to the edge of the stones like I usually do.  So the plan for next time is to make  1 1/2 batches of this dough to have a little more to work with.

Wheatless Pizza Dough

1 package yeast (2.25 t.)

1 cup warm water

1 1/4 cups spelt flour

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4  cups each of corn, garbanzo bean, oat and almond flours

Combine yeast, water, spelt flour.  Mix.   Add oil, salt, other flours (and you can add herbs/spices now if you want like powdered garlic or oregano) until dough sticks together.  Knead with dough hook for a bit.  Roll dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover loosely, set in warm place to rise for about an hour.  Ready to use after this.  Makes 2 balls to make 12 inch pizzas. (Spread on pans, top with whatever you like, cheese on top then bake for 30-40 min. at 400º)

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My New Toy: The Joseph Joseph Garlic Crusher

Posted on September 12, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health | Tags: , , , |

Food - New Garlic Press

I have been systematically eliminating unhealthy materials from my kitchen over the past several years.  Those would be:  plastics and aluminum.  I realized, though, I’m still using my old Pampered Chef garlic press which is some kind of plastic-coated aluminum.  I saw an ad in a magazine for a stainless steel version so I did a search and I found quite few from which to choose.

My Joseph Joseph Rocker Garlic Crusher arrived recently and I am amazed at how it has greatly improved dealing with garlic.  First, it’s an elegantly shaped heavy piece of stainless steel.  It makes such short work of crushing garlic it isn’t even funny.  I love when a company puts some thought into a design that actually works well.

There is something about fresh garlic you should know:  let it rest while you do a few other things.  Crush, which breaks cell walls and begins chemical processes in the cloves, rest for about 10 minutes to let them interact and become even more healthfully powerful, then use.  So, I crushed about 5 cloves here, let it sit on the crusher while I threw my salad together, then scraped it into my marinara sauce and rinsed off the tool.  Beautiful!

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Oregano and Lemon Thyme Harvest

Posted on September 11, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health, Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Plants - Oregano and Lemon Thyme

Free food – I love it!  Both these plants have come back for at least 4 years.  I just whack them down, dunk in a bucket of cold water, rinse and spin in the salad spinner.  Then lay out on paper towels in baskets and forget about them!  In a few weeks they are crispy.  Then it’s time to shove them into tins.  The oregano gets massaged to drop leaf parts into tomato sauce, pizzas, salads, eggs, you name it.  Same with the lemon thyme, which is a favorite on eggs.  It doesn’t get any easier than this!  These plants are completely neglected by me and the bugs in the garden.  Their high essential oil content protects them and me when I eat them!

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