(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Photographers do the craziest things.

I chased these white horses around the field in Sauder Village trying the get the perfectly synced photo.

It turned out that the first one I took was the best… isn’t that always the case?

P.S. After I prepared this post, I realized that those rocks in the corner were actually little horse pies and was aghast. Then I decided to keep them in as proof of a photographer’s folly in not cropping one’s photos. 🙂

I’m linked up today with Project Alicia. Be sure to stop by and visit the work of these talented bloggers and photographers.

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First Husband Wine

We had book club at our house on Monday night. Book club with our group requires that most of us actually read the book, but there’s also food and wine. On another day I’ll tell you about the fabulous gluten-free dinner we prepared…

When the club left, I noticed that our decent chardonnay had been finished first, followed by the well-rated jug cabernet. Almost all of the jug pinot grigio was gone, too. All that was left was the lonely first husband wine. Even our “mature” drinkers in the group didn’t touch the white zinfandel.


Unless you’re the people who were with me during that fateful tour of the Beringer winery, you probably are scratching your head about “first husband wine.” I have to insert a commercial here, however. The Beringer property in St. Helena is stunningly beautiful, and we had the best tour guide ever.

Image via http://vintnerds.blogspot.com/2011/09/more-blends.html

California White Zinfandel is kind of the step-child of rose wines. French rose makers don’t take it seriously, wine connoisseurs turn their noses up at it, and it’s so cheap to buy that it can’t possibly be any good, right? Yet some people just love it!

And now for the punchline…

Our very funny guide at the winery told us that Beringer White Zinfandel was a “first husband wine” — it needs to be used up while it’s still young and fresh. And then move on to a more mature vintage.

I didn’t say it; don’t shoot the messenger. You have to admit it made you giggle, though.

Apparently I’m okay with it, too. As I type, I’m drinking some of that lonely little bottle as inspiration for this post. 🙂 And darling husband is still on his first wife, 30 years later.

Travel Lust: Doing the Laundry While On the Road

It’s still kind of hard for me to wrap my arms around the fact that I’m actually giving European travel advice — just call me Rickie Steves! I waited for many years for my European shot and it has been everything I hoped it would be. Both of my kids went to Europe twice before I got my chance — and I don’t regret sending them — but I’ve been taking advantage of being an empty nester for the last few years. Viva England and France (to mix my languages)!

I just had to show you why one doesn’t want to throw one’s laundry on the floor when one is staying in a ritzy London flat. We managed to score this fabulous apartment at the Sloane Club (wait for it to load; it’s worth it) because the studio we actually booked was being renovated and we got the duplexed one bedroom (that’s an understatement) for the same price.

This was our closet, the home of our dirty laundry. And yes, that’s a trouser press in the right corner. Gosh darn it, I love England — all I need is Jeeves.

After having been to England three times and France once in the last three years, my advice is to pack some laundry equipment.

One of the things I hate when I’m going to stay more than one night in one place is throwing my dirty clothes on the closet floor (I’m pretty sure the person before me in that room still has cooties in the carpet) or crunching them into plastic bags. I now pack a pop-up laundry basket. Genius. It works for the dirty clothes and it works when we have to do some laundry outside the hotel room or in our rental apartment. It also works if we take a picnic blanket and stuff to the beach. The pop-up mechanism means that it folds flat in my suitcase and takes up practically no room or weight. Combined with two plastic pants hangers, two plastic shirt hangers (with the hooks for camisoles), and our trusty stretch clothesline and plastic clothespins, we are able to do laundry in our hotel rooms and also hang not-quite-dry laundry from the European washer/dryer combo.

Life was all good until I found THIS. I’m tempted to give my boring hamper to someone else, and buy this hamper for myself and every other girlie I know. Who doesn’t want a little black brocade in her closet, even while on vacation?

Image via victoriantradingco.com

P.S. I would have linked up Wikipedia for the Jeeves reference, but I support the blackout. Tell your Congresspeople that SOPA isn’t the way to suppress internet crime.

P.P.S. E-mail me if you want me to hook you up with my travel agent; she may be the only full-service agent left in the United States!

P.P.P.S.  It’s amazing what WordPress doesn’t know how to spell. I’m just sayin”…

Saturday Linky Love: Julia Child’s Kitchen — Quelle dommage

I just read that the Smithsonian is dismantling Julia Child’s kitchen and putting it in a larger exhibit where it will be “in context” with other food exhibits.

Image via Richard Strauss/Smithsonian

Image via Richard Strauss/Smithsonian

OMG. I was just thinking about planning a spring break trip to Washington, D.C. in order to put my secret stick of butter in Julia’s kitchen. It’s a good thing I read David Lebovitz’s posts on my Facebook page!

Image via sanfranciscosentinel.com

They say it will be open again “sometime” because the Child kitchen has become a “go-to” exhibit and has attracted visitors far beyond the Smithsonian’s expectations. I was ready to make my pilgrimage, and I’m really disappointed.

I’ve been a Julia disciple for many years, but she really came into focus for me after reading her books and seeing the movie made of Julie Powell’s book. I blogged about my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking here, made a recipe from the cookbook and blogged about it here, and commented on the book and the movie on my previous blog. I’ve excerpted my comments for you here.

Having recently finished reading My Year in France by Julia Child and viewing Julie and Julia, I can’t help recalling the scenes in both the book and the movie where Child gathers in a group of people and creates a family wherever she lives. She lost her mother early, her relationship with her own father and stepmother was strained and it appears that she was disappointed to remain childless, but she made up for this sadness in her life by being a catalyst who drew disparate people together.

Not surprisingly, her lasting friendships appear to have revolved around food and travel. The Valentine’s Day scene in Julie and Julia in Paul and Julia’s French dining room is poignant and felt very meaningful to me as it triggered memories of the wonderful meals I have shared with family and friends in 2009. Even when I went to the movie web site and watched the trailer, I was reminded of incredible meals from the movie and from my own life.

After reading both books and bookending the books with viewings of the movie, I heartily recommend that you do all three. The movie is good enough to stand on its own, but your enjoyment and understanding of the characters involved will be deepened by reading the books.

When I wrote this post in 2009, I had not yet been to France. This summer, we will go back to Paris for a return trip. I’m going to do some more research about Julia’s life in France and perhaps will be able to perform this year’s visit to the Julia shrines in France rather than the United States. Let me know if you have any good ideas!

Packing a Suitcase: Works for Me Wednesday

Packing light has never been easy for me and my husband. We call it “going full Griswold” but it’s not nearly as funny as Chevy Chase made it appear in National Lampoon’s European Vacation. We are at that certain age when shorts and tee shirts aren’t appropriate and we often wear more than one change of clothes in a day. He has very large and heavy size 12 shoes and I can’t seem to travel without about five pairs. And yes, we each pack our own suitcase, which leads us to part of our problem. Duplicates.

For our summer trips this year, we tried some new ideas that I had read about on the various travel sites I follow. It was difficult to break our old patterns and we weren’t totally successful, but we incorporated three ideas that did work.

  1. Use compression and zip lock bags to separate and protect clothing. We put our outfits (pants, shirt, socks, underwear) in gallon size bags, press the air out of them, and throw them in the suitcase. They keep the clothing reasonably wrinkle free and when we are finished with the outfit, it goes back into the bag dirty, thus protecting other clothing. You could even have a 3×5 notecard with “dirty” on one side and “clean” on the other in each baggie. Then you know what you need to wash when it’s time to do laundry. Take a few extra baggies of various sizes with you. They are miracle workers — in France I needed an ice pack and voila! My extra baggie full of ice worked wonders. Of course, you should practice being green by reusing the bags every time you travel.
  2. Pack large bags so that you only have to open up one at a time. It is such a pain to try to work around two large suitcases in a hotel room or someone’s guest room. I’m trying to forget what it was like when we traveled with kids, but I know it was even worse than it is now that we are empty nesters. If you use the baggie method of packing, you have everything all separated out and all you have to do is pull out one baggie for the next day for each person. The other piece(s) of luggage can remain in the car or stored in the hotel room closet until you need to break it open.
  3. Don’t take duplicate toiletries. It’s easy to forget to plan for this when people are throwing stuff into their personal carry-ons at the last minute. Even if one of you uses sensitive toothpaste and the other doesn’t, somebody can compromise for a couple of weeks. We used to take two sets of band-aids, two sets of shampoos and gels, two sets of painkillers, and sometimes two hair dryers … you get the picture. On our trip to France, we still ended up with two bottles of the medication we both take, and that was totally unnecessary. Give some thought to what you can share and how much you will need.

I’m determined to pack even lighter the next time. I’m looking for the perfect pair of shoes that can be worn with skirts and pants, has a relatively sturdy sole that can take a beating, and is deep enough to take my orthotic inserts. If you have found this pair of shoes, let me know!

This post is linked up at We Are That Family: Works for Me Wednesday. Check out what other bloggers have done to improve their lives!

On the Road: To Recline or Not to Recline

As I prepare to board a trans-Atlantic flight, the seat back reclining issue is rearing its very ugly head. I am what my good friend refers to as “fluffy” and there is not enough room in a coach seat for me AND for you.

I thought that this post, The Etiquette of Seat Backs and Elbow Room, was a good set of reminders about airplane travel etiquette. And no, I don’t think your little darling peeking over the seat at me is cute for more than one or two minutes. When I had little darlings, I tried valiantly to keep them from bothering the other passengers, and I expect the same from you.

I’m just sayin’… see you at the airport.

On the Road: False Advertising and a Pot of Gold

As my husband and I ease on down the road toward retirement, we think about where we might like to plant ourselves. Since I have always wanted to live near a lake or an ocean we have been looking at places along the Great Lakes. I check real estate listings, wondering what we can afford with a view of the water. Well, in one case of false advertising, my question has been answered.

On the first day of our vacation, we were in northern Ohio and found ourselves with some extra time in our traveling schedule. We decided to take a quick gander at one of the places we had been looking at online. Chesapeake Lofts in Sandusky, Ohio, looks very appealing on the Internet. The condominiums are in a renovated factory building on a pier extending into the Lake Erie waterfront, and overlook Kelley’s Island. You can see Cedar Point in the distance; it’s a great location. Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t live up to the artist’s rendition.

I probably should have known (husband says that he warned me) that the neighborhood was at best a gentrifying area. The condos are rented out and apparently have a low owner occupancy rate. The comments online tell a story of a blighted neighborhood, transient occupancy, and dissatisfied owners. Now that I’ve seen it for myself, I’m not surprised.

The first thing we encountered as we walked along the sidewalk adjoining the condo development was a sign announcing that the adjacent canal was the site of the storm drain overflow and that the canal was unsafe for swimming, water skiing, and fishing due to possibility of raw sewage dumping into the canal.

Someone really should have told the fish.

As we continued our walk down the path, getting closer and closer to the lake, we encountered these cute little lights.

Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, those are dead bugs that haven’t been cleaned up. Thousands of them. I know that the squeamish among you are now shrieking over the travesty of someone actually buying into this condo complex. What kind of a management company allows a mess like this to stay on the sidewalk for more than a few hours? Yuck, yuck, and triple yuck.

As we walked back toward the car, our final view of the neighborhood was the abandoned buildings lining the street that the Chesapeake Lofts web site refers to as the“Paper District.” Really?

As with any vacation, we ran a risk and depending on your “adventure quotient,” you could say that our risk paid off. We know for a fact that it will be a cold day in you-know-where before we retire to the Chesapeake Lofts, so we can cross that one off of our very long list of possibilities. It’s similar to a college search; the more colleges a student looks at, the more likely he or she is to pick the one that’s right.

And, as with some sad stories, there was a pot of gold at the end of this particular rainbow. We ended our day’s drive with a visit to my cousin’s home near Pittsburgh. Theirs is a magic circle of love and faith centered around this beautiful lake.

After a challenging day of driving, we were happy to call their guest room home for the night. Hopefully we’ll find a lake, too, where we can start a charmed  life story in our retirement.

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