Monday, November 23

Around the House

We are back to “normal,” whatever that is. JJ was sick with a cold/sinus infection for three weeks, but with the help of a Z-pak (antibiotic) he’s back on his game. I think he has had 3 or 4 colds in the 32 years we’ve been together. I, on the other hand have probably had 30. I used to get a cold every year until I stopped eating wheat. But then, I used to work in an area with three other people who had kids and they brought the little buggers’ bugs to work. So maybe it’s that.

Okay, I promised some pictures of the new window treatments. This is what we’ve got so far, the bedroom ones come tomorrow.

This is the Africa Room. I would like to paint the walls darker. Some day.

And this is the office. Southwest is passé, or maybe it’s in again, but the colors were right. We have cherry desks and bookcases in there. Our walls are not white, they are actually a sand or khaki color.

These are the cornice boxes in the main living area. I was afraid the stripes would freak me out but they’re hardly noticeable and the dots add a touch of whimsy. I would have preferred a swirly, paisley-type design, but the other half of Us hates paisley. IMG_2794


In the studio—I am making a table runner for our Dallas friends, a very belated hostess gift for putting up with us for six days. IMG_2797

This is the other side, just for fun. They can flip it over for a party.IMG_2799

That’s all for now! Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19

Getting Back to Real—Please?

We had 7.5-year-old Savannah for the weekend. I will readily admit that I am not your perfect grandma. Doesn’t mean I love them any less, but I am not used to having them around. Savannah is a willful child with a mind of her own, and her parents joked about that when they came to pick her up. “How long did it take you to figure that out? Two minutes? Three? Ha ha!”

Ha ha indeed.

She knocked at the bedroom door at 6:45 Saturday morning, ready for fun and games with Grandma. I’ve been having a very hard (impossible) time readjusting my circadian rhythm ten hours from the Europe trip, and this wake-up call set me back to completely upside down. I was off-kilter all day. It wasn’t her fault, I had neglected to set the guestroom clock back—the time change occurred while we were away. Sigh.

JJ is more temperate and jovial than I, and usually provides half the support, but he’s been sick (getting better now) and was down for the count. Oh well. I survived. Next time, we establish a wake-up curfew.

The next part of the travelogue is not terribly exciting. We had some nasty weather for a few days and we missed a few ports for a variety of reasons.

This is Portofino, you’ve probably seen a million photos and paintings of this iconic scene. But we’ll look a little deeper.

This is really all there is to it, a place to sail your boat to, and shop and dine. Our ship was too big to get close and there is no dock for a large ship, so we had to take a tender boat to shore. The entrance to the village center is lined with pink plastic meerkats. This caused me wonder. I don’t get it.

And some other odd statuary, these looking rather Picasso-esque.IMG_2651

We had wine and olives at the sidewalk café with the green awning. Two other passengers we knew joined us and we had a nice visit. They had tiramisu and said it was outstanding.

We hit the fine ($$$) shops, didn’t buy anything ($$$), then went back to the ship to play bridge.

The next day we went to Cinque Terre (”Chingkweh Terra”) It was raining and the seas were rough, so the ferry wasn’t running and the only way in to these five little isolated gems was by train. We had not booked a tour here because we had planned to take the ferry (which was not running) on our own. This is Monterosso al Mare, which [I’m guessing] translates to Red Mountain by the Sea.

It was pretty cold and wet, so we ate lunch (delicious), marched around the only street, and trekked back to the train station in the rain. We had those teeny-tiny folding travel umbrellas, which are worthless in that kind of downpour.

I love the way they left the brick/mortar exposed here. We saw a lot of this.IMG_2659

Just another photo and then the camera went into my rucksack to stay dry.


After Portofino and Cinque Terre, we hit really bad weather and rough seas and had to change a few ports. We had arranged a ride into Florence and the driver never showed up. We stood out on the dock for 40 minutes in the cold, driving rain before we gave up. Turned out there were two ships in port, both sort-of named Oceania (ours was Oceania Riviera) and of course the driver went to the wrong one. He finally caught up with us but by then we would not have gotten to Florence in time to see David, which was our sole reason for going (we had timed tickets), so we said no thanks and kept the 80 euros per person, which was too high anyway, and played cards. And then Deborah and I both caught colds. But that’s travel.

I had been playing fast and loose with the bread over there and on the ship because it’s not as high in gluten as American wheat, but it’s not gluten-free and eventually it did catch up with me. I was actually relieved when we missed Capri (weather) and docked in Naples (big city) instead. I was able to walk ashore and buy some cold meds and a rescue inhaler for my asthma, which was getting a little scary. Four euros ($4.25—it would have cost $60 in the US plus a doctor visit) and it worked like a charm.

I avoided wheat after that. Which is really challenging in Italy because pizza is everywhere. Pizza and pasta—it’s what’s for lunch and dinner. Oh, and biscotti. Sniff sniff…oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

In other news, there is quilting going on in the studio. Pictures soon.

Thursday, November 12


One of the things I never understood was, which came first? Monte Carlo or Monaco? Or are they the same place? According to Wikipedia, Monte Carlo officially refers to an administrative area of Monaco, specifically the area where the Monte Carlo Casino is located.

This is a shot of the famed casino (“Bond. James Bond.”), zoomed in from the ship.

And here is the opposite, entrance side. It was a Monday afternoon, so we didn’t see any zillionaires coming or going, but there were several expensive cars parked outside. And throngs of tourists taking selfie photos with the Maseratis and Ferraris. So many selfie sticks wherever we went. Meh.

We went inside (10 euros each) but no cameras were allowed. There are two sections, one where the common people are allowed to gawk (dress code strictly enforced), and beyond that, the massive gold-inlaid doors where only the swells were permitted to enter. We could not get a glimpse beyond the doors as they were guarded and never opened while we were there. We had originally planned to return that evening for dinner, but it seemed more reasonable ($$) to have dinner on the ship.

To the left of the casino is the Café de Paris, where you can sit outside and have a cappuccino or a glass of wine (I chose the wine).

To the right of the casino, across from the Café de Paris, is the very shi-shi Hotel de Paris. Note the fine automobiles. Is that a red convertible top on that Mercedes? I think it is. We went inside but were swiftly (and politely) shown the door. Given the bum’s rush, as it were.

The thing about Monaco that struck me was how densely developed it is. It’s very steep! With my big lens I can zoom in but I can’t get a wide shot, so this is just a piece of it. Also, the Grand Prix is raced through the narrow, zigzag of streets every spring.

This shot, taken from the top of a Hop On Hop Of (HOHO) bus, is of the Parliamentary area where Prince Albert currently sits.

Prince Albert, you probably know, is the son of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly. Gee that’s a lot of medals! Her picture is everywhere; a self-guided tour.

This is the church where the wedding took place. It’s up on that escarpment in the Parliament, the happy couple could have walked home from the church.

Prince Albert is a handsome lad. Not as many medals as his papa, though.

Here is a picture of our ship, Oceania MS Riviera (lower right) nestled in among the fine yachts. How did the captain get it in there!

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 9


Barcelona is a hip, young, university town. It’s easy to get around on foot, at least in the tourist areas. It is one of my very favorite European cities. It’s fun.

Like so many European cities, it got its start during medieval times. The original walled city is called the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter). A few parts of the wall still stand, but they are almost obliterated by the more modern, cosmopolitan city that surrounds the Gothic Quarter. It is a delight to walk through the narrow lanes that are full of funky shops, cafes, and tapas bars.
Barcelona Gothic quarter, Carrer del Bisbe

Today’s Barcelona is the city that the 1990 Olympics built. This was where the flame once burned, outside the stadium.


They transformed a former quarry into a vast Olympic venue. I was captivated by the artistic way they incorporated gears, gaskets and other findings into the pavement.

Before the Olympics, Barcelona was a dot on the map. But what they built for the Olympics made the city what it is today, so it is an important part of the history of this place, strange as that may seem. They built a marina, a beach, and a modern cruise ship terminal that can handle several monster ships.

Another thing that jumps out at you is the architecture. Barcelona beyond the old city was being built up during the Modernism era around the turn of the century, and several architects built houses for the nouveau riche at the time. One of them was Antoni Gaudi (“gowdee”), whose works are all over Barcelona.


All well and good, but it’s his jaw-dropping, astonishing La Sagrada Familia that steals the show. It’s a work in progress, still unfinished since it was begun in 1882.

It lanquished for several decades, but now they are working day and night to finish it by 2026, which will mark 100 years since Gaudi’s death. HERE is a short film if you’re interested.

We went inside. It is like being in a magical forest. IMG_2496

The stained glass windows cast soft colors on the pillars. I don’t need to tell you that pictures do not begin to do justice to this place.

The outside is pretty amazing too. It tells the life story of Jesus. IMG_2495


Flamenco is not Barcelona. Flamenco is Sevilla, but our companions had never been to Spain so we went to a flamenco show. It was the real deal.

Next up is Provence and Monte Carlo.

Saturday, October 10

Pinot Tasting Party

Well, I’ve gone and done it again, I didn’t take photos. This time I even brought out the camera and set it up, ready to go, on the table. But I get so busy that I can’t be taking pictures. But I did get one of JJ opening and test-tasting the pinots before the guests arrived. The two white platters will hold Pork Tenderloin slices with that same Onion Garlic jam I put on the brie last week, and Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms. I guess I didn’t make enough food; everything got gobbled up.

We had ten people (including ourselves). It was very hot outside (90°) so we had the AC on. It was a little crowded with ten people. I think that’s our max, plus that’s all the seats we have outside. After a while I opened the door and it was the same temperature outside as inside, so we all went outside where we could sit with a plate of appetizers and enjoy the balmy evening.

This picture was from a couple days before. October brings beautiful, colorful “cloudsets.”

On the other side of the house, packing is happening. We are less than two weeks away from a Mediterranean cruise. Note to potential burglars: There is nothing to steal. Our TVs are ancient, we sold the gold jewelry years ago, and I’ll have the camera with me. You could steal the new laptop, it’s a piece of crap, I’ll put it in the front room so you can find it.


I’m looking forward to this trip (as always). It’s a nice itinerary, but a port every day. No sea days to rest and play cards. Except Rome, we will not go into Rome. We’ve been there and instead we will enjoy a down day on the empty ship. We have been to these countries, but most of the ports are new to us.


We are going with Tom & Deborah. I know I have a picture of them, but it must be on my phone. The new laptop refuses to shake hands with my phone. Anyway, they live in Carlsbad, which is where we stayed last spring while our house was being built, and we got to hanging out with them regularly. One night they invited us to their house for dinner and Deborah presented us with a cruise brochure and asked if we’d be interested. As I recall, it didn’t take very long to decide the answer. There were other friends going as well, but one by one they dropped out along the way.

So we have a lot to do; the next several days will be busy ones. Today we are going to meet my cousin for lunch at the beach. Funny—we live 6 miles from the coastline and we hardly ever GO there. Cousin Jim and his wife Sherree, who live in New Orleans, just drove the entire length of Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. Jim turns 66 this year (I am 5 months older) and that is how they celebrated it. What a great idea!

Sunday, October 4

Dallas and a Dinner Party

We spent a week in Dallas visiting our new best friends we met on the South Pacific cruise this April. And, three days after we returned, we threw a dinner party for 8.

I was feeling the pressure.

The cool thing about the internet is that if you decide not to take your big, heavy camera, or its batteries are dead, you can “borrow” images from the internet for purposes of illustration. Which is what I did here. I still have not learned how to get images from my phone onto my laptop, however I can put images from the laptop onto my cell phone, which take up more space on that device than I want to dedicate to pictures, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to figure it out. Posting photos to Facebook is so much easier than blogging nowadays, but I’m steadfastly refusing to go that route. The images I do show here are spot-on to what it was.

We had glorious weather in Dallas. Our hosts, Bill & Sarah, took us to the JFK Museum in downtown Dallas. One recognizes the building immediately. 512ee6149ee0e.image

They have a terrific multimedia museum of events about the assassination of JFK. You can look out the window that Oswald did when he shot the President.

You can’t see it in this photo, but there is a big X on the street where the fatal shot was fired. Most of my readers lived through that awful time and the museum brought back sad memories, but it was heartwarming to see many younger people and soldiers in uniform.348s

Then we drove out to Bill & Sarah’s Lake house in East Texas. It’s two hours ENE of Dallas. This is where we spent most of our time, playing bridge in the afternoons and drinking wine in the evening. So relaxing.vfiles37705

When we got home we had exactly two and a half days to unpack, do laundry, shop and prep for a dinner party Saturday night. I had put the leaf in the table and set it before we went to Dallas.

I am a firm believer in doing everything in advance. By Saturday afternoon I was sitting with my feet up, reading The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure. An excellent read, I highly recommend it.

I made all the food Friday. All I had to do Saturday was get a pedicure, make the salad and arrange the flowers.

Here is my recipe for Make-Ahead Scalloped Potatoes for 8 to 10 people. These are crazy good and everybody loves them.

  • 6 - 8 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 3/4 pint heavy cream (not half & half, not milk)
  • 1 can Campbell’s chicken broth (small red/white can)
  • Salt, white pepper to taste
  • Chives, parsley (optional but recommended)
  • 1/2 – 1 stick butter
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Put the cream in a large saucepan and heat over low heat. Keep your eye on it and don’t let it boil over. Remove from heat.

Add the chicken broth, a little at a time, until the sauce is light and creamy. Add the salt, white pepper, and chives/parsley to taste.

Melt the butter. Use some of the butter to grease a large glass/ceramic baking dish. Yes you can use Pam but the butter gives it a crispy edge like in the above picture.

Peel and thinly slice the potatoes (I use a mandoline). Drop the potato slices in water as you work. Drain the potatoes in a colander.

Working in layers, arrange potato slices followed by a drizzle of melted butter. You could add cheddar or jack cheese between the layers if you want.

After the potatoes are in the baking dish, pour the cream/broth over top, until  the liquid comes up over the potatoes. If you need more liquid, you still have some cream left.

Heat the oven to 350°.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle Parmesan, and put it back in the oven uncovered for 10—15 minutes or until lightly browned.

To make ahead: Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let come to room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 2 days. When you’re ready, take the dish out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature for an hour or longer. Heat the oven to 350° and bake the potatoes until they are heated through, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle grated Parmesan over top and return to oven, uncovered, for about 10—15 minutes or until lightly browned.


The other players were Chicken Dijon with Shallots and Grainy mustard,creamy-dijon-mustard-chicken-horiz-640-600x428

and Fabulous Spinach Salad. Maple syrup and balsamic vinegar dressing: Killer.IMG_7630

The hot appetizer was melted brie with Onion-Garlic Jam. Outstanding.

What could be easier—two ingredients, cheese and jam.

Oh, and we had these. Terra Chips. Have you ever had them? So unusual.

I had planned to make an apple cobbler for dessert, but then we went to Costco and I saw this huge apple pie and it pulled me in like I was hypnotized. We served it warm with vanilla ice cream. This lit up my brain like a drug. Remember, I rarely eat this stuff. Outrageous! I swooned.


On the gluten-free front, I am finding I can have a little bit of wheat products now and then without incident, like a couple crackers or, in this case, a bit of pie crust. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. It’s still best to avoid wheat altogether, but it’s easier to resist when you know it’s going to get you.

Now we are gearing up to go to Barcelona in a couple weeks. We are hosting a pinot party next week and I’ll try to remember to take photos.