Category Archives: Life
Clothes shopping has always been a mixed bag for me. I’ve been overweight most of my life, so the choices were limited. I tended to buy things based on the simple criteria that if it fit more or less ok, I would get it. There’s a LOT of stuff that doesn’t fit if you are plus size.
Now that I can shop in regular stores (having lost 60+ lbs in the last 2.5 years), shopping is more of a pleasure But it can still be time consuming and sometimes frustrating. The idea of having someone else pick out some items based on style and size questions I answered and sending them to me, sounded easy and fun. I decided to give Stitch Fix, a subscription box shopping service, a try. Getting the box in the mail WAS fun, and having the items at home with my own clothes to try on with the stuff that they sent me was great.
I realized some of the answers I provided needed to be edited to be more specific about what I wanted. In my first box, I got two pair of pants: both ankle length and skinny cut. The first, by Level 99, were my size but much too snug and made my legs look like sausages. Return.
Embellished jeans by Driftwood were next, not quite as tight but still, not keepers for me. The ankle length and decoration at the end of the pants leg made my short legs look even shorter. I can’t decide if I liked the zippered pockets but it was a moot point.
A soft cardigan by Mix by 41 Hawthorne (I couldn’t find a direct link to them) was snug in the arms, had too much polyester (which makes me itch), and I didn’t like the color. So another return.
I was tempted by this Kate Spade silver bangle. But what I took to be a little heart was really a spade (doh!) and I decided it was a little pricey. You can see from the photo, I hadn’t yet figured out it was a spade.
But wait, there is still one more item! A pretty flowered navy skirt with a scalloped hem by Skies Are Blue.
I enjoyed the whole experience and I’ve gone online to provide feedback on the items I returned. I’m looking forward to my box in February and I’m very happy with my new skirt! In the process of trying on the items I received, I ended up going through my closet and trying on things I haven’t worn for awhile. I weeded out items that may look good on the hanger or be a fantastic color, but I’m just not wearing them. I also figured out pieces that I’ll be looking for to fill some gaps. A satisfying project all around.
(Apologies for the less than stellar photos. It was evening by lamp light).
Thank you for the visit.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The color scheme in the ossuary was more somber.
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.
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?
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.
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
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
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, saute about 5 minutes.
- 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
- 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.
- In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions.
- 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.
Rem and I went on an awesome honeymoon to Italy and I’m finally feeling caught up after struggling with jet lag and the mundane business of normal life when we returned. I’ve been wanting to share some of our photos.
I took a journal and some art supplies with me. I wasn’t planning on doing much crafting during the trip, but I wanted the option. It wasn’t until we were on the flight home that I actually put them to any use. Here’s my little mini crafting kit.
The first photo and this one, below, show my opening layout, done on the plane. I collected quite a bit of ephemera on the trip, and I’m using the bits of collected tickets, maps, postcards, candy wrappers, etc., that I saved to illustrate the journal.
Our first stop was Rome.
We arrived in the evening and crashed at our Airbnb.
The next morning Rem figured out the Moka pot, for his morning coffee, and we headed out early.
Everything looked amazing. The streets were sparkling clean, the window displays were colorful and amusing, the good looking people passing by were beautifully dressed (though many were smoking) and the buildings were grandiose or simple but all seemed to have lovely architectural details. It felt a little bit like we were in a Disney set version of Rome.
Even though the day was overcast, we were happy to be on vacation in a new place, exploring both the simple neighborhood flower shop, and the famous sites, like our selfie atop the Spanish Steps.
(I always forget where to look when I take a selfie). You can see St. Peter’s Basilica behind us.
We walked for miles that day. We had Pizza Bianca: thin, chewy baked dough with oil and salt but no sauce or cheese, at Forno di Campo di Fiori, then walked through a small Farmer’s Market on our way to the Vatican.
It was a Wednesday, and the Pope had spoken to the masses, but was done and gone before we arrived. Crews were dismantling the platforms where he’d been seated, and loading up the rows and rows of chairs.
We had our first pizza a taglio, sheet pizza, sold in squares by weight. It was SO good! This pizza is usually sold at stands or small shops for take away or to be eaten at the counter. Pizza at a pizzeria is usually individual round pizza and it is most often eaten for dinner, with a knife and fork.
We took care of the business of purchasing Italian SIM cards for our mobile phones, rode the metro, people watched and, later, went out for dinner at ‘Gusto Osteria, choosing several small plates with bread so we were sure to have room for gelato.
Tagliere di Salumi, 5 varieta (5 kinds of salami and other cured meats)
Fiori di Zucca, fritti (fried zucchini flowers)
Carciofi alla Giuda (Deep fried Jewish Style Artichokes)
The most amazing and delicious dish was the artichoke, which was warm, crunchy, salty and kind of nutty.
More walking so we could see the Trevi Fountain at night. We weren’t the only ones with this idea.
Gelato and then up the four flights to our apartment. Our first day had been a long one.
Our visit to Rome was brief, but we still had a few hours before departing. Breakfast, a visit to an art supply store so I could pick up an Italian glue stick, packing and more gelato. We’d seen an article listing top ten gelato’s in Rome and #1 in the story was actually the gelateria a few doors down from our apartment! We obviously couldn’t leave without a taste.
A quirky doll-repair shop and another beautiful produce stand.
Art store treats: washi tape, fat graphite pencils and a glue stick, all of which are perfect souvenirs for me.
A taste of honey-basil gelato (good, but didn’t want a whole scoop), then off to catch our train to Naples.
Grazie mille for your visit. Thanks for stopping by.
Rem and I went to Sea Ranch the day after the election. It was just lucky timing, but I’m so glad we had time away from our computers and phones due to severely limited cell coverage and v e r y slow internet. We also didn’t turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper.
Instead of focusing on bad news, I took walks and Rem went on bike rides.
Crashing surf churned up extra foam which made it look as if someone had used the wrong kind of soap in a dishwasher.
We sat in front of the fire and watched the flames instead of watching the news.
I took a good, long walk on most days.
One afternoon we baked focaccia.
I spent lots of time crafting too, but I’ll show that in another post.
We also took a long drive one day, going north and then turning inland to follow a road we hadn’t been on before. We ended up in Boonville and visited the Anderson Valley Brewing Company.
Do what you can to keep your perspective. Treat yourself and those around you with love and kindness. Long walks, especially on a beach, were great for me.
Thanks for the visit.
Colordash, Monday, July 4
Friday: From the Sunset Test Gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma with Rem:
Sunday: Marin Farmer’s with Ariel:
Monday: Colordash Fun Run (and walk) with Sarah, Ariel, Kathleen & Caitlin.
Caitlin stayed relatively clean because she is suffering a cold and veered off the course for some hot tea.
I also fit in crafting, cooking and walking.
I hope you had a good weekend. Thank you for stopping by.
We drove in and out of fog going up the coast from Cambria. By the time we got to Nepenthe in Big Sur, it was warm and sunny. We ate on the deck at Cafe Kevah. What a beautiful place! I have nice memories from a stop made years ago on a road trip with my friend Lisa.
If you don’t want to stop for a meal or a snack, the Phoenix Shop is a nice place to stretch your legs on a road trip. Even the restrooms are beautiful – I snapped this picture in the ladies room!
Next stop, Monterey. We’ve visited here on a previous trip and this time just took a stroll on Old Fisherman’s Wharf.
Nearby Marina and the English Ales Brewery was where we had dinner that night.
The next morning at The Breakfast Club in Seaside, I was delighted with the beautiful fruit salad I got with my poached egg and chicken sausage. Rem had chicken fried steak with scrambled eggs and an English muffin.
We meandered up Highway 1, stopping at several produce stands, included this one where Stella and her sisters posed for another picture.
Another stop offered “U-Pick” strawberries (we didn’t) and jam tasting (we did). Inside was self-serve with an honor system to pay for berries, jam, baked treats and soup. After tasting a few jams, we had our own picnic snack outside.
Lunch at the Highway 1 Brewing Company was forgettable except for one beer that Rem thought was great, the McKees Chocolate Milk Stout. Their address has them in Pescadero but they’re before the turnoff of Hwy. 1 to the little town. We enjoyed strolling through a few cute shops and I bought some paper ephemera.
Pescadero is a nice destination for a day trip from the Bay Area. We’ve visited other times and enjoyed the artichoke bread for sale in one of the little gourmet grocery shops. Something new for us was Harley Farms Goat Dairy, a short drive from the tiny downtown. We tasted cheese, saw sweet little kids (of the caprine variety), a pretty flower garden and an upstairs dining room in the renovated barn where they hold farm dinners and other special events.
Our last stop for the day was Barbara’s Fish Trap in Half Moon Bay where we shared this gorgeous platter of goodies: calamari, cod, prawns, scallops and zucchini.
We had plenty of time on our final day to stop and have a Stella reunion.
Thanks for stopping by. And remember: spread love, spread joy, spread peace, and spread jam.
Here are pictures from our recent road trip. As it included Rem’s birthday, we visited a few breweries so he could sample some beer. We drove south on Highway 101 and our first stop was at El Toro Brewing Company. Rem tried their Ghost Chili Golden Ale, a hot, spicy beer after enjoying one on our last birthday beer road trip.
They claim it is the hottest beer in the world. Rem said it was “insane” but I think he was glad to have tried it.
Speaking of insane, with Rem at Big 5 picking up new sneakers since he left his at home, I wandered through the BIGGEST craft store I’ve ever seen: Hobby Lobby. There were aisles and aisles of different kinds of letters: metal, cardboard, acrylic, paper, etc.
A huge selection of cabinet knobs.
This cool dresser:
And this cute pillow and poster, not to mention a LOT more stuff. It was staggering to just try and get an idea of all the crafting supplies they carried.
I’ve since learned that I don’t see eye-to-eye with this company and some of their practices, so it’s just as well there’s not a store near home.
Next stop: Monterey Coast Brewing in Salinas. This is where Rem met up with a cute blonde at the bar.
Well, to be honest, we brought her with us. This is Stella, my sister Kathleen’s long-haired dachshund. We couldn’t really bring her, so we did the next best thing and brought some cut-out photos of her, and had a great time finding new places for her to visit.
At Paso Robles, which was a toasty 103 degrees, we headed to the cool, foggy coast and our destination for the next three nights: Cambria and the lovely Olallieberry Inn, recommended by friends. The inn had a birthday special for a three-night stay: Stay over your birthday and pay the regular rate for the first two nights, and the rate for the third night is the year you were born, which in Rem’s case meant we paid $19.67.
We arrived just in time for the late afternoon wine and snacks on the deck. An abundance of flowers in the back garden added to the charm of the inn.
After dinner out, we fell asleep in our “Room at the Top,” with a chorus of frogs outside for a lullaby.
Rem’s birthday started with decadent French Toast Brûlée, olallieberry yogurt, homemade granola and bran muffins. I left the French toast for him to enjoy and was very happy with the rest of it. It’s a good thing, because on our drive into the hills above Cambria, we stopped at Linn’s Fruit Bin and shared a mini-ollalieberry pie. We didn’t see any olallieberries and the blackberries weren’t ripe but it was still a pretty place to visit.
Stella enjoyed the scenery.
We hung out in Harmony.
It’s a tiny town, really just a few shops, a glass blowing studio and shop, and a small chapel.
Back to the Inn for our evening snacks than a change of clothes before going out to dinner. Robin’s Restaurant had been recommended by the same friends that suggested the inn, and we had a special meal, befitting the occasion. Rem chose a curried lamb dish and I had short ribs. Even though it was his birthday, he let me choose dessert and it was not difficult to decide on the Sweet Trio: strawberry sorbet, dark, dense chocolate mousse and excellent creme brûlée. We were both surprised when they brought a chocolate sundae for Rem gratis. A sweet finish for a nice birthday.
The next day we drove back to Paso Robles for lunch at Firestone Walker Brewing Company in their Taproom Restaurant. It is a huge complex, much bigger than other breweries we’ve visited and they’re expanding.
We did a little meandering on our way back to Cambria, stopping at a few wineries, but it was pretty hot and I was looking forward to the foggy coast.
This is the ceiling in a winery that looks like a castle; Tooth & Nail. I was able to get a few of their wine bottle labels to use in collage projects.
Back in Cambria, a full 44 degrees cooler than Paso Robles, we went to Moonstone Beach, pictured here at the top of the post. This photo is looking south and the other one is looking north.
After some geocaching and window shopping in town, we had our last evening wine (Rem) and snacks (me) at the Ollalieberry Inn before a low-key dinner out. Each evening and over breakfast we enjoyed conversation with the owners, staff, and other guests at the inn. I was also delighted to be able to spend some time crafting in the dining room and finished a collage-painting.
The last morning at Cambria had arrived but we still had a few more days of vacation, which I will share in a future post.
Thanks for sharing our trip and thanks for your visit.