Bear Valley Trail 4/60

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Want to know something cool about getting older? I get to do things over that I forgot doing before, so they are NEW again! A friend and I walked part of the way to the coast on this beautiful trail on Saturday. I wasn’t planning on counting this as a new thing for my 60 New Things Project because I knew I’d taken this trail in the past. But it was completely unfamiliar to me.

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I left two painted rocks for others to find.

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Thanks for stopping by.

All photos except rocks: Shook Chung

 

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Lantern Light Festival 3/60

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3/60 Visit a Lantern Light Festival

I heard about this festival last year but didn’t attend.  This year, after starting my 60 New Things Project, I decided to go and brought my husband, Rem, and sister, Kathleen along for the fun.

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We didn’t get off to a great start, but once we got through heavy traffic, found the fairgrounds, bundled up, and got some dinner, we started to enjoy the beautiful spectacle. The festival is located at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, next door to Six Flags.

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I’m working on a list of possible new things, and I will be inviting friends to participate. I would love to hear your ideas for things to add to my list. So far I have:

  • Trampoline
  • Cooking Class
  • Various walks and hikes
  • Tattoo (maybe)
  • Foot massage
  • Kabuki Japanese Spa
  • French Laundry

Thanks for the visit.

 

 

 

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The 60 New Things Project

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Hello, Friends. Happy 2020! This is the year I turn 60 and I’ve created a project for myself to celebrate this milestone. I want to experience sixty new things. They may be new tastes, new views, new creations, or anything else I see as new. And, because it is my project, I get to set the parameters.

  • I’m giving myself from January 1, 2020, to March 2, 2021 (my birthday) to complete the 60 New Things, which comes out to about 1 per week.
  • I can do a bunch at once or spread them out.
  • To count as new, it could be something I haven’t done in a very long time (like jump on a trampoline), or something I’ve never done (get a tattoo – I don’t know if this will happen), or maybe something I’m doing in a new way.
  • The 60 New Things Project (60NTP) will be tracked on this blog. Blog posts may include more than one new thing per post, and posts may be as simple as a photo and caption.

I’ve started the project and here are my first two things:

1/60 Hike a new trail in the Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve.

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My friend and colleague j. and I completed a vigorous hike in  Forest Knolls, hiking up to and along the San Geronimo Ridge Fire Road.

2/60 Eat Haitian food at Caribbean Spices Restaurant in San Rafael.

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I had delicious Creole Jerk Chicken and shared sides of rice, plantains, green salad and a spicy cabbage salad. I meant to take a picture of the food.  Next time!

Catching Up…

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Briefly – since I last posted two years ago, I wanted to give you a little update on what I’ve been doing: painting rocks and losing weight! I love creating painted rocks that I release for others to find. You can see them on Facebook at the Marin Rocks page.  In June of 2017 I started Weight Watchers, now WW, and I’ve lots 60+ lbs.  I have given myself a bracelet for every 10 lbs. I’ve lost.

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Thanks for the visit. It’s great to be posting again! See you soon.

Opening photo: Shook Chung

 

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Let’s Wrap This Up

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The year is about done and somehow I haven’t posted anything since July! Not only that, I have left you hanging and never shared the remainder of our wonderful Italian honeymoon way last spring.

I could blame the stacks of New Yorker magazines a friend passes on to me, or the lifestyle changes I’ve adopted since starting Weight Watchers in June and the time I spend on exercise and food prep, or the time I spend gazing at my mobile phone as I flip through email and posts on Facebook. But I’ve been a champion procrastinator my whole life and there’s really no good reason. Continue reading

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Painting Frida

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This didn’t start as a painting of Frida Kahlo. I started by making a collage background using mostly ephemera collected on our trip to Italy, such as maps, postage stamps and pages from a little book.

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Then I painted an angel that, in my mind, was Italian. I was thinking of my friend (and sister-out-law, now that she’s not my sister-in-law), Victoria, and the Italian woman in her past.  Side note here: Victoria loves Frida Kahlo.

This is the original version:

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I struggled with her face and ended up collaging an oval piece of paper over the first several tries and taking another go at it – you can see the edge of the paper. But I was happy with the final painting….or as happy as I usually am.  I get a little tired of them when I’m working on them. I spend some time on them and sometimes need a little break when I’m done.

The yellow bird and big pink flower both ended up staying on her head – I was trying to decide which one and I decided to go with both. Permission granted.

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When I put the painting up on a shelf in my office, several people commented that it looked like “that artist,” or “Oh, it’s Frida!”  I disagreed, but thanked them. I mean, they both had dark hair in a bun with a big flower (or a few) in it. But after the third person said it looked like Frida, I decided to give my Italian angel a makeover.

I think she went from sweet to strong.

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It took some work to make the changes I thought she needed, but it was worth it and now I love the painting, and so does Victoria.

Thank you for stopping by.

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Beautiful Florence

Looking back through my pictures and Florence is as beautiful as I remember.

We had what was probably the best Airbnb apartment of our whole trip. It was less than two blocks to the River Arno and the Ponte alla Carraia (the second bridge west of the Ponte Vecchio), and probably 15 minutes walk to the train station. Well, 15 minutes for us. If you ask an Italian how long a walk, they would probably say 5 minutes. They all seem to walk very briskly and everything is “just 5 minutes walk away.”

Just inside is the well-equipped kitchen and one bathroom, then up stone stairs to the two bedrooms and up another flight to another bathroom.

Right by the bridge was a gelataria, Gelataria Carraia. This was another fabulous gelato shop, also on several Top Ten lists.

We loved living in a neighborhood that offered laundromat, grocery store, bakery, brewery and gelataria all within a short walking distance.

 

S. Forno Panaficio, the bakery, was a beautiful shop with a vaulted ceiling. I asked a woman behind the counter how long they’d been open and she said they’d been there for four years, but there had been a bakery in that location for “at least 100 years.”  Everything we tried was delicious.

Rem was  happy to sample a flight of beer at Archea Brewery in our neighborhood, a small place, as well as at Beer House Club, which had more space, and more beers to taste.

Walking around there was so much to see.

From this huge wall, portal and door…

To a strange doorknocker, there were beautiful and unique things at every turn.

This poster turned out to be the first of several similar ones we saw later in the trip. Blub.

An open-air bus was a nice, relaxed way to see some of the city. Sitting in the sunshine with my husband, classical music playing on the headphones between the tour information, toodling around Florence wasn’t a bad way to spend the afternoon.

And David. Ah, David. There are two replicas displayed outdoors. We saw them both.  The bronze, below, is in Piazzale Michelangelo.

Rem was not interested in waiting in line to visit a museum, so I saw the original marble by myself (for the second time – my first visit was when I was there 18 years ago).  It was a long line but I’m glad I went back.

We didn’t go inside the Duomo, but the exterior is an extravagant wedding cake of a design in elaborately carved white, green and pink marble. The terra cotta dome is magnificent and I loved catching glimpses of it as we moved around the historic center of the city.

We enjoyed a classic dinner: bistecca alla fiorentina, or literally Steak Florentine: grilled Porterhouse steaks.

And of course we enjoyed shopping in the food stalls in the Mercado Centrale and cooking dinner in our own kitchen.  I also hit the stalls outside and bought a new purse and some scarves.

Soon enough, it was time for another train journey – off to Lucca.

Thanks for coming along.

 

 

 

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On to Naples (and a recipe)

 

After the history and elegant pomp of Rome, Naples felt more real, somehow, and more gritty. The stylish and tasteful Romans made me wonder where those who weren’t so chic and slim were. Naples was bursting with exuberant fashion. Skintight, low cut, bright colors, sparkles, zippers, studs, snakeskin, leopard print and fur were on show and often many of those in one outfit. It seemed as if there were even more smokers than in Rome.

We stayed in the historic center, with narrow alleys and plenty of graffiti, something we didn’t notice in Rome.

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The entrance to our building was a smaller door cut into one of these enormous doors. We had to both step over and duck down going through the door.  You can see the outline of the small door in the lower right of the large doors.

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On our way to visit the Cimitero delle Fontanelle,  I saw this church and at first thought it was covered in mosaics. As we got closer, I realized the artwork was done in paint.

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The color scheme in the ossuary was more somber.

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Although it was cool and peaceful, I found it a little creepy.

Back at our apartment, I felt like a local, hanging our laundry out on the balcony.

Later we strolled Spaccanapoli and Tribunale, two long, narrow streets in the historic center of the city, tasting some of the delicious fried snacks as we went along. We saw a line at a counter like this, and joined it before we even knew what everyone was queuing for. The case seemed bursting with rice balls, potato croquettes, fried zucchini, fried eggplant etc. We soon learned everyone was waiting for a fresh batch of frittatine: deep-fried pasta formed into fat discs, stuffed with minced pork, bechamel sauce, and peas. Worth the wait.

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Our hostess, Maria, had encouraged us to visit her favorite pizzeria, stating it made the best pizza in Naples. She went on to say she believed Naples made the best pizza in Italy, and Italy made the best pizza in the world. How could we resist the opportunity to taste this amazing pizza?

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OK, the huge crowd outside Gino Sorbillo was a little disheartening. The wait for a table was over an hour. But we realized we could order it to go (or “take away”) and we had our pizza in about 15 or 20 minutes. It was a warm evening and we found a bench nearby to enjoy our traditional Neapolitan pizza all’aperto (outdoors). It was delicious and not at all like the the pizza I’m used to. The crust is quite thin with blistered, almost burned spots, the sauce on top almost soupy and the cheese was amazing. That doesn’t sound like much, but I wish we could have had it again.

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We finished the evening with gelato (of course) at Gay Odin, a chocolate shop and gelateria. They were closing up or we might have stayed to choose a chocolate or two. The pretty box, below, was part of their window display.

The next morning we couldn’t resist a return trip to Spaccanapoli for pastry, sfogliatella on the left and Baba au Rhum, on the right, two Neapolitan classics.

I discovered cannoli are not from Naples, but Sicily.  Lucky for me, some pastry shops had them for sale.  This crisp tube of fried dough was filled with sweet, creamy ricotta studded with bits of chocolate and candied orange peel.

Rem downing an espresso.

With our day off to a great start, we headed down to the waterfront and strolled along, enjoying the view of Mt. Vesuvius.

Eventually, we picked a seafood restaurant on a pier and had lunch here:

The waiter recommended pezzogna, a local fish, grilled with olive oil, salt and lemon, and a side of grilled vegetables.

In the afternoon we rode the funicular railway. Unfortunately, a taxi driver claimed that the two longest lines were closed until April (it was still March), and we didn’t know better. When I kept asking about the other two lines, he  finally said scathingly, “It’s a TOURIST train!” I responded with “And we’re tourists!” He did take us and then overcharged us but as we said at the time, it was all part of the authentic experience!

From the funicular we walked to Castel Sant’Elmo, a medieval fortress, and enjoyed the views.

That evening, our last in Naples, was the first time we cooked on our trip. We found some kitchens better equipped than others, but we took real pleasure in exploring grocery stores and markets and doing our best to create delicious Italian dinners.

I had downloaded Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, an updated combination of  her The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian, to my Kindle, so I was ready to go.  The small Carrefour grocery up the street was very well stocked with beautiful pastas, cheeses (I got a hunk of Parmigiano at a great price and carried it with us all the way to Venice) and produce, including the zucchini blossoms that I couldn’t resist.

Pasta with Sausage and Peppers

Barely adapted from Marcella Hazan

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

12 to 16 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

2 red or yellow bell peppers, diced (I bought a giant one, so only used one)

salt and pepper to taste

1 can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes with their juice

1 lb. pasta (she recommended wide pappardelle noodles, but we used orecchiette or little ears)

1 tablespoon butter

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, saute about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sausage and brown, breaking up large pieces as it cooks. After the sausage is lightly browned, about 3 or 4 minutes, add the peppers. Continue cooking another 6 to 8 minutes
  3. Add the tomato with juice, breaking up large pieces. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer watery.
  4. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions.
  5. Drain pasta and toss with butter, sauce and cheese.

Big success. This is an easy and delicious recipe.

The zucchini blossoms were less of a win. I stuffed them with a little luscious ricotta cheese and planned to make a thin batter and fry them, but I didn’t want to purchase a whole bag of flour so fried them without any batter. Good but not what they could have been.  Still, it was nice to be cooking in our “own” place.

We enjoyed a good little slice of Naples but the next morning it was time to catch a train to Florence.

Thanks for coming along.

 

 

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