Just for Fun Archives

June 1, 2009

The Italian Tomato Garden


An old Italian lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard.

His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Vincent,

I am feeling pretty sad, because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over..? I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.

Love, Papa

A few days later he received a letter from his son.

Dear Pop,

Don't dig up that garden. That's where the bodies are buried.



At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.

That same day the old man received another letter from his son.

Dear Pop,

Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love you,


June 2, 2009

May Dinner at Fiona and Steve's

Saturday night we were guests at a wonderful summer dinner party at Fiona and Steve's. We began with liver crostini, bacon wrapped shrimp, triple creme French cheese and wine. Then we moved into the dining room. The dramatic table was set with black linens, candles, and lots of floral accents.


Our first course was a crab gazpacho.


Gail brought a marinated veggie salad.


Dinner was a wonderful selection of cold dishes!

Roast pork with caramelized onions


Grilled asparagus wrapped with bacon


Wild rice salad


Grilled tomatoes and portobellas


I made another strawberry tart for dessert.


A tradition at the Altmans: after we finish eating dinner, each person has an English
"cracker" (foil-wrapped cardboard tube containing a tissue paper crown, a joke, and a small gift/prize). You cross arms holding one end of the cracker, while persons on either side are holding other end, forming a chain around the table. At the same time we all pull, they pop, and we retrieve the contents. Then we wear our crowns, read our jokes, and show our prizes. I got a handy-dandy little make-up mirror for a purse.

Here we are just after the "cracker festivities":

Brad and Gail:


Kay and Steve:


Bill and Palma:


Fiona and Herb:


It was a gorgeous evening outside, so after dinner, we sat outside for more wine, honey rum, African liqueur, and Dooley's tastings. Fiona and Steve are were great hosts, as always.

June 18, 2009

The Bear


This bridge is on the Old Donner Pass Highway.
It has a spectacular view of Donner Lake and Donner Pass on Route 80.


A bear was walking across Rainbow Bridge ( Old Hwy 40 at Donner Summit,
Truckee) on Saturday when two cars also crossing the bridge scared the bear
into jumping over the edge of the bridge. Somehow the bear caught the ledge and pulled itself to safety. Authorities decided that nothing could be done to help Saturday night so they returned Sunday morning to find the bear sound asleep on the ledge.




After securing a net under the bridge the bear was tranquilized, fell into the net, lowered, then woke up and walked out of the net.


There is a moral to this story you know.

This old bear made a wrong move and found he was hanging by his nails.

Somehow he was able to pull himself up onto the ledge where he saw he was in a very bad, impossible situation and what did he do?

Yep, he took a nap and sure enough the situation took care of itself while he was asleep.

The moral is that when confronted with a bad situation sometimes the best solution is . .


June 24, 2009

So Many Tulips!

Different flowers mean different things to different people. Sunflowers and pansies make me smile, and it seems as though they are smiling back. Daffodils mean Springtime, mums mean fall and poinsettias mean Christmas. Roses are to celebrate or for romance, but one of my all time favorite flowers are tulips. During last month's visit to the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, I really enjoyed the tulip display in their conservatory. I hope you'll enjoy it too.










And my FAVORITE of all:


June 26, 2009

We're Off to Roma


We're packed and ready to go! Here we are in our Palmabella's Italy shirts. We each have six to wear during our first group tour in Umbria. We even have our own logo! Our guests might see this often.


We had a fun "Buon Viaggio" dinner at El Agave in San Diego with Jane, Ken, Casey and Shannon.


Here are my mango shrimp and Brad's mole poblano:



I will leave you with this Italian themed joke:

"This is something to think about when negative people are doing their best to rain on your parade. So remember this story the next time someone who knows nothing and cares less tries to make your life miserable."

A woman was at her hairdresser's getting her hair styled for a trip to Rome with her husband. She mentioned the trip to the hairdresser, who responded:

"Rome? Why would anyone want to go there? It's crowded, and hot, and dirty… You're crazy to go to Rome! So, how are you getting there?"

"We're taking Continental," was the reply. "We got a great rate!"

"Continental?" exclaimed the hairdresser. "That's a terrible airline. Their planes are old, their flight attendants are ugly, and they're always late. So, where are you staying in Rome?"

"We'll be at a charming hotel near Piazza Farnese. It is a great location by the Campo dei Fiori and an easy walk to Piazza Navonna, the Pantheon, and Travestere."

"Don't go any further. I know that area. Everybody thinks it's going be something special, but it's really a dump. The piazza is noisy, you can't sleep at night, and the rooms are so small."

"We're also going to go to see the Vatican and maybe get to see the Pope."

"That's rich," laughed the hairdresser. "You and a million other people trying to see him. He'll look the size of an ant."

"Well, good luck on this lousy trip of yours. You're going to need it."

A month later, the woman came in for a haircut. The hairdresser asked her about her trip to Rome.

"It was wonderful," explained the woman. "Not only were we on time in one of Continental's brand new planes, but it was overbooked, and they bumped us up to first class. The food and wine were wonderful, and I had a handsome 28-year-old steward who waited on me hand and foot."

"And the hotel was great! They'd just finished a $7 million remodeling job, and now it's a jewel, the finest hotel in the city. They, too, were overbooked, so they apologized and gave us their owner's suite at no extra charge!"

"Well," muttered the hairdresser, "that's all well and good, but I know you didn't get to see the Pope."

"Well, we were quite lucky, because as we toured the Vatican, a Swiss Guard tapped me on the shoulder, and explained that the Pope likes to meet some of the visitors, and if I'd be so kind as to step into his private room and wait, the Pope would personally greet me."

"Sure enough, five minutes later, the Pope walked through the door and shook my hand! I knelt down and he actually spoke a few words to me."

Now the hairdresser was amazed. "Oh, really! What'd he say?" she asked.

He said: "Dio Mio! Who fu*ked up your hair?"

August 14, 2009

Julie and Julia


My book club read Julie and Julia last month. In general, we all enjoyed the book. The "f-word" was used liberally in Julie's blog. That didn't bother me when reading, except to think, "I wouldn't write that way". The rest of the group wanted to know how it was for a "food blogger" to read it. If truth be known, I was a little jealous. It seemed that Julie developed quite a following in a year, as measured by number of comments. She didn't even post photos of the recipes. I thought about how much time I spend blogging, when it is "just a recipe". I enjoyed the sections about Julia's life in Paris, and of course I zeroed in on both of the women's relationships with their husbands. The biggest turn-off in the book was Julie's housekeeping. The descriptions of cat hair, maggots, and stacks of greasy pots and pans really grossed me out. YUCK! I also thought her husband was a SAINT! She really did whine a lot!

I remember watching Julia Child on television as a child. She had quite a big presence and a distinct voice and laugh. I vaguely remember she looked like she enjoyed cooking and eating.


I first saw the movie with Brad last weekend. We both laughed, and I cried when Julie completed her project and went to see the Julia display at the museum, leaving butter. I LOVED Stanley Tucci as Paul, and enjoyed their romance and the sweet scenes between them. I loved Julia's sister's wedding scene, Julia showing up the male chefs, and really forgot I was watching the incredible Meryl Streep. She WAS Julia! I really liked The movie's Julie character, and had so much more empathy for her than I had in the book.

I watched the movie again last night with my book club. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around, and noticed a few things that I had missed the first time. Is there anything Meryl can't do? She looked pretty good with those onions and the omelette.

What a fabulous passion for food!

After the movie, Brad told me I was the "olive oil on his bruschetta", and the "breath of his life". This Francophobe is now going to read, My Life in France.

August 20, 2009

Book Club Movie Night

My book club came over to see my movie of our Italy trip. We began with champagne, ham-gruyere palmiers and parmesan -paprika crackers.



Dinner was simple and easy. We had a huge green salad with lettuce, arugula, peppers, red onion, tomatoes (which I picked out of mine), croutons, and grilled chicken breasts with a pomegranate vinaigrette. We had a simple tortellini salad with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, and garlic bread.



We tried to compile a list of all the books we've read in the past 2 1/2 years. We came up with 26 or so, and wrote them down. We watched my Umbria movie. For dessert, we had a fig jam-marscapone tart, and everyone got a jar of Fig-Amaretto jam to take home. We decided we needed a name. We became the Fig Jam Tarts!


Next month we will discuss The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato. Whoo Hoo, we are going back to Italy!

August 28, 2009

August Books

This month, I have been busy, but managed to find time to read four books, three of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Being active in two book clubs keeps me reading too.


The first was The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. You've all heard the premise or at least seen trailers for the movie. The book is based on a fascinating concept of traveling in time, and meeting one's future spouse when you are an adult, and she is a child. When their paths cross as two adults, she knows him, but he "hasn't met her yet" in his present. I agree with most reviews that the idea is better than the way the author builds a relationship between the main characters. Their courtship and marriage seems to be based a lot on constant sex, but I may be jaded, as most of the client couples I see fall into the opposite category, of very infrequent sex. They are too busy fighting. I didn't feel the book's characters were happy in their relationship, and the 6 miscarriages through the middle of the book were hard for me to read. I have no desire to see the movie.


DELIGHTFUL! Now THIS was a happy marriage. I loved reading about Julia Child's life, marriage, travels, struggles writing her classic cookbook, and gusto for food! It ALMOST makes me want to go to Paris.


I really enjoyed this chick lit book. It got me out of France and back to Italy, and was a combination of a mystery, romance and historical fiction. The story is about a modern day glass artist, who after a divorce, returns to Venice to work on Murano, and learn the truth of her ancestor who was the greatest glass artist in the 17th century. The heroine learns of old jealousies and treason. She must find out what really happened. This book flips back and forth from the past to the present, and the author does a wonderful job of smoothing those transitions perfectly. Every once in a while I also like a happy ending (even if it was predictible).


Right now I'm in the middle of this newest Donna Leon mystery. I guess, I can't quite leave Venice. I love Commissario Guido Brunetti and his family. This book deals with illegal transporting of garbage, environmental issues, corruption, and of course, murder.

This is also the first book I have read on my iPhone Kindle. I was afraid it would eat up my battery, especially because I usually charge my phone at bedtime, and that is also when I like to read. It is not at all a problem. It is great for travel too. Brad read this on my iPhone while we were in Italy.

Next month I look forward to reading: (along with my book clubs'choices)

The 8th Confession by James Patterson
Finger Licken' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

September 3, 2009

A Prayer for the Guys

The pastor asked if anyone in the congregationa would like to express praise for answered prayers.

A lady stood and walked to the podium.

She said, "I have a Praise. Two months ago, my husband Tom had a terrible bicycle wreck and his scrotum was completely crushed. The pain was excruciating and the doctors didn't know if they could help him."

You could hear a muffled gasp from the men in the congregation as they imagined the pain that poor Tom must have experienced."Tom was unable to hold me or the children," she went on, "and every move caused him terrible pain.

We prayed as the doctors performed a delicate operation, and it turned out they were able to piece together the crushed remnants of Tom's scrotum, and wrap wire around it to hold it in place."

Again, the men in the congregation were unnerved and squirmed uncomfortably as they imagined the horrible surgery performed on Tom.

"Now," she announced in a quavering voice, "thank the Lord, Tom is out of the hospital and the doctors say that with time, his scrotum should recover completely." All the men sighed with relief.

The pastor rose and tentatively asked if anyone else had something to say. A man stood up and walked slowly to the podium.

He said, "I'm Tom."

The entire congregation held its breath.

"I just want to tell my wife that the word is sternum. "


October 13, 2009

Fall Tables

September brought golden light and sunflowers.



October brings pumpkins and leaves (to remind us that the REST of the country has these colors outside!).


October 16, 2009

My Kitchen's Top Chefs

I recently did a new wall grouping of photos in my kitchen. One of the first things people notice among all the bright colors, clutter, and Italian ceramics in my kitchen are the large letters above my kitchen table spelling out a big "Buon Appetito".



Under the "BUON" is a new grouping of chef photos in bright green (yes, I painted them) frames. The three large (8x10) stars of this area are me with Top Chef's renown head judge, and chef/owner of Craft Restaurants, Tom Colicchio, Fabio Viviani's thank you photo for my taralli, and Fabio and I at Cafe Firenze.




Also sharing the wall of honor are photos of Palma with Executive Chef Matt Seeber, of Craftsteak, Las Vegas; Executive Chef Carlos Buscaglia of Fiamma, at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas; Iron Chef, Cat Cora; Salvatore Denaro of Il Bacco Felice, Foligno, Italy; and Chef/owner Alessio Liberatore from Taverna dei Fori Imperali in Rome. I had one more spot, so up went a photo of me with Editor in Chief, Barbara Fairchild, of Buon Appetit magazine. I spend a lot of time at this spot, as my laptop lives on my kitchen desk, and these photos make me smile. Stop by and see them for yourself. I will need a new blank wall to add more chefs soon!

I believe if you experience great food, you should honor the hard work and skills of the chefs who created the dishes you love, and gave you a memorable dining experience. Tell your friends, support their restaurants, buy their cookbooks, and learn something from them. They work SO hard to get where they are. Honor them by spreading the word!

Who would I love to have on my wall? Of course, Gina DePalma, Mario Batali, Giada, Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, Jamie Oliver, Lidia Bastianich, Rick Bayless, Hubert Keller, Michael Mina, Joel Robuchon, Nancy Silverton, oh, the list just goes on and on!

October 19, 2009

Tagged! Something Blue

Last week, I was tagged by my friend Sandi, of Whistlestop Cafe Cooking, to find seven blue things around my house. This was a challenge! My house has tons of color, but none of them seem to be blue. Here is what I did find:

Blue water in my pool


Blue gorgonzola


A blue and yellow bowl of lemons


I love blue hydrangias, but it is too hot in my yard!


There is some blue in my casita bath


And my "counts as two" photo of Brad's blue glasses, and my favorite blue eyes!


Since this has already gone around my "bloggerhood", I am not going to tag anyone, but if you have not been tagged, and are reading this, show us your blues! I'm hoping for lots of blue Greek scenes from Jerry!

October 26, 2009

Girasoli Cookies

Slow Travel friends from New Jersey, Kim and Chris, spent a sunny weekend in Palm Desert, so we had a few ST friends over for a pot luck dinner on Saturday. These were our "party favor" cookies:


1 pkg. (8oz.) cream cheese (room temp)
1 cup real butter (room temp)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 cups flour (all purpose)
1/2 tsp. vanilla flavoring or your favorite

Cream cheese, butter, sugars and flavoring in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.
Gradually add flour and mix well.
Refrigerate several hours or overnight. (Very important step)
Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness on lightly floured surface. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350º for 8 to 10 minutes.(the edges should be lightly browned)
Cool for 2 minutes and transfer cookies to a cooling rack.
Decorate as desired when cookies have cooled completely. I used royal icing.


I made the cookies, and froze them (before icing), about three weeks ago. They are much easier to ice, when they are still frozen (less likely to break off a delicate petal!).
I put them in individual bags, filled a large tray, and they became party favors. (Bags at Sur la Table)


November 2, 2009

Dinner with Diana and Walt

We had a wonderful evening with our neighbors, Diana and Walt, and another couple, Cindy and Don at their home one street behind us. Appetizers included spicy pecans (recipe below), endive with blue cheese spread and bruschetta with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.


Dinner was fabulous! Walt did his annual magic with a grilled, butterflied leg of lamb. His marinade is really to die for, and I have no idea how he makes it. I only know it has become an annual event! We also had spinach salad with strawberries and pecans, asparagus, and a bulgar salad. YUM!


Dessert was also great. Diana made a light and fluffy lemon souffle. She topped it with fresh raspberries, and a raspberry puree. It was a perfect ending to a delicious dinner.



Here are Diana and Brad:


Cindy and Don


and Palma and Walt


The spiced pecans Diana served were so addictive, I had to make some the next morning! They are fabulous. I rarely use my cumin, but might have to stock up to make lots of these for the holidays.

Saralyn's Spiced Pecans

1 lb. pecan halves
6 T. butter
1 T. and 1 t. ground cumin
3/4 t. cayenne
1/4 c. sugar
3 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350
Place pecans in a bowl. Melt butter, and add cumin and cayenne. Pour over pecans. Add sugar and salt. Toss pecans well, and spread them in a large baking pan. Bake 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.


November 23, 2009

Cooking Class at Palma's: Part 1

A few weeks ago, my neighbors Diana and Cindy, decided I should teach a "cooking class" for a small group of neighbors. So last Friday, four brave women: Diana, Cindy, Maryann and Pam showed up at my house at 1 p.m.. I had planned a menu of some of my "old standby dishes", emailed the grocery list (they all shared the cost of the food) and printed out a little "recipe book" for our dinner. We had SUCH a fun afternoon!


We had lots to do, so after a lecture about kitchen safety and cleanliness, we were off and running! I warned everyone about how sharp Brad keeps his knives, and not a drop of blood was shed. We discussed, "Pumpkin towels for HANDS, and green towels for DISHES!"


We began by making our tart crust so it could chill. Maryann is cutting the butter for the pastry.


Cindy and Pam kept us laughing!


I'm demonstrating the right consistency for the parmesan crust dough in the food processor.


Cindy and Diana are slicing the apples, while Maryann made filling, and Pam made topping. I happily "supervised" (bossed everyone around). Brad was very helpful as our bartender and dish slave.


5 women make an apple tart:


"How do I turn on this thing?"


What is polenta?


By 3:00, our apple tart was done, the parmesan crust was cooling, and the "do ahead" polenta was ready. Time for a break!


Four wines and a coffee:


Next we salted and browned the spare ribs, before letting them braise for 2 1/2 hours in ale, stock and tons of rosemary. Then we learned how to cut fennel for our salad, and we made a simple passionfruit salad dressing.




By 5:00 we were done with everything. Everyone went home to freshen up, and we transported all the food to Diana's house, as she can seat 10 in her dining room comfortably. Everyone arrived with wine and anticipation (and husbands) at 6:00!

Tomorrow...the food photos from our wonderful dinner!

November 24, 2009

Cooking Class Dinner

After cooking all afternoon, we arrived at Diana's house at 6:00, ready to eat the "fruits of our labor". Maryann and Diana fixed our artichoke bruschetta:



Pam and Cindy put together our fennel-orange-red onion-spinach salad with passionfruit dressing:



Everyone enjoyed the beautiful parmesan crusted heirloom tomato tart.


The husbands were hungry and full of anticipation (Don not pictured):


Dinner included maple-rosemary glazed short ribs and cheesy polenta with fried sage.



We managed to save enough room for an Italian Apple Tart and cinnamon ice cream:



I was surprised by the chefs with a perfect thank you card, a gift certificate to Bristol Farms, and a thoughtful "Italian Phrase-a-day" calendar! We've already planned to make this a quarterly event!


November 30, 2009

Palma's Math on Video Poker


We arrived in Las Vegas on Wednesday night at 11:00 p.m., checked in at Caesar's Palace, and headed directly to the poker machines with my "budget" of $100 per day for gambling.

Wednesday: 11:30-2:30 a.m.
Put in $100. Left with $80 . Played 3 hours and earned lots of points.

Real Math: Lost $20
Palma math: Won $80 let's go shopping tomorrow!

Thursday: 10 a.m. with coffee 30 minutes
Put in $20, left with $50

Real math: Up $30 for day, $10 for weekend so far
Palma math: Whoo Hoo up $110

Thursday: 12p.m. 30 minutes

Put in $70. Left with zero

Real math: Lost $40 today
Palma math: That didn't count. It wasn't even MY money!

Thursday 2:00-3:00
Put in $20. Left with $70

Real math: Back to up $30 for day
Palma math: Haha, told you it didn't count! Now I have THEIR money back! Up $110

Thursday after dinner: Put in $150, then another $100
Left with zero


Real math: Down $220 for day
Palma Math:I just played today's $100. The rest was their money! I broke even for the day!

Friday: Black Friday Shopping! Then a nap. After dinner, I put in $100, left with $50.

Real Math: down $50
Palma Math: I won $50!

Laugh if you will, but I did score over 4, 830 "Total Reward" points during the weekend. That gives us 3 more free nights when we want to come back, so I AM A WINNER! With my accumulated points that were about to expire, I also cashed them in for a $75 gift certificate at Barnes and Noble. With the $50 I won, I bought 2 cookbooks from Caesar's famous award-winning pastry chef, Francois Payard. See how well my math works?

December 30, 2009

Ego's Birthday

We celebrated Ego's birthday. After all getting to 17 is pretty darn good for a dog! Cockapoos usually live to 13 or 14, but Ego is hanging in there. His vision isn't what it used to be, so we keep a close eye on him near the pool, but he runs, eat, poops, and takes lots of naps. He is wonderful company and is always ready to snuggle down for a good cuddle session. Here are a few holiday photos. He had a very short new haircut on Christmas Eve, so he looks a lot like a baby goat without all the hair, but he sees better without the hair in his eyes.


This one lights up when I move!


It is really stupid, but it keeps me warm!


This is where you will often find me!


December 31, 2009


In our wedding vows, Brad said, "I make you laugh, and I promise I always will." He has pretty much kept that promise. We laugh often and hard together. I think it is one of the important parts in a happy marriage.

Brad loves to play with words, and he especially enjoys puns. Some are better than others. Some a completely dumb. Here is a list of the 10 best puns of 2009:


It is said that the ability to make and understand PUNS is the highest level of language development. Here are the top 10 winners in the International Pun Contest.

1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The Stewardess looks at him and says, ‘I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.

2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says, ‘Dam!’

3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft Unsurprisingly, it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it, too.

4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, ‘I’ve lost my electron.’ The other says, ‘Are you sure?’ The first replies, ‘Yes, I’m positive’

5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. But why they asked, as they moved off. ‘Because,’ he said, ‘I can’t stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer.’

7. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named Ahmal.. The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him Juan. Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal.. Her husband responds, ‘They’re twins! If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Ahmal.’

8. A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to ‘persuade’ them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he’d be back if they didn’t close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

10. And, finally, there was the person who posted ten different puns, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make his readers laugh. No pun in ten did.

My all time favorite pun:

A man tried a new brand of iced tea mix with a picture of a cuddly koala on the box. It was the best iced tea he'd ever had! He decided he had to know how they made it. A quick examination of the box revealed that it was made in Mercy, Australia. Looking up Mercy on the web showed that it was just about the hardest place to get to in Australia, but he had to go.

After a couple of days of grueling travel, he finally arrived at the Koala Tea plant and begged for a tour. They showed him everything, from their hydroponic farm to the drying process and the brewing process. Finally, they arrived at the end of the brewing process, where they had a vat of boiling tea with a net suspended over it filled with koalas. At a push of a button, the net opened, dropping the koalas into the boiling tea!

The American was horrified, and disgusted as a layer of boiled off koala flesh and fur accumulated on the top. He turned to the plant manager and begged, "At least, tell me you filter that muck out of it!"

"I should say not!" sniffed the foreman. "The Koala Tea of Mercy is not strained."

Hope at least one of those made you chuckle!


January 4, 2010


If you haven't seen this video, it is a sweet reminder of the joys of friendship. I am very blessed in the friend department. Cheers to friends, old and new!

The Orangutan and the Hound:

January 10, 2010

Friday in Pasadena

We left for a short getaway on Friday, and met Jan and Les for lunch in sunny Pasadena.


From there, we went for a long afternoon walk through Huntington Gardens:


It was a beautiful day (76 degrees) to see the garden, even though January has less blooming than other months. There were lots of camelias.


There was BIG Bamboo:


There are acres of formal gardens, fountains and statuary. This one made me feel like I was in Italy.


Here we are near the rose garden:

The Japanese Garden is serene with gentle sounds of running water.


The Chinese Garden is also beautiful, but the tearoom was closed.



It was a great walk before checking in to our North Hollywood hotel for the reason we came. of our amazing Chef's Table dinner at Firenze Osteria!

February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

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February 19, 2010

A Little Travel Humor

English from Around the World:

In a Bangkok temple:

Cocktail lounge, Norway:

Doctors office, Rome:

Dry cleaners, Bangkok:

In a Nairobi restaurant:

On the main road to Mombassa, leaving Nairobi:

On a poster at Kencom:

In a City restaurant:

In a cemetery:

Tokyo hotel's rules and regulations:

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant:

In a Tokyo bar:

Hotel, Yugoslavia:

Hotel, Japan:

In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery:

A sign posted in Germany's Black Forest:

Hotel, Zurich:

Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand:

Airline ticket office, Copenhagen:

A laundry in Rome:

February 21, 2010

We're On the Road

We are out of town again this weekend. We came to Fresno for my good friend Connie's surprise 60th birthday party. (More on that later).

I did NOT make this week's Sunday Slow Supper's recipe. I will try to catch up on it later.

But in oder to not miss a day of blogging, here is a video for you to watch.

I have no words for this video. Maybe "engaging", "fascinating", and definitely "creative"! Some people have too much time on their hands. Apparently this was the final project for some students at Texas A&M. Just watch...

Fun Video

February 22, 2010

Surprise Party!


We spent the weekend in Fresno to attend Connie's SURPRISE 60th birthday party. About 70 people were gathered in the banquet room when she walked in the door for dinner.
Surprised is EXACTLY what she was!




Corey, Chaudra, Casey, Sarah and Frosty pulled things off without a hitch, and baby Noah slept peacefully through all the tears, laughter and noise!




Twelve Alpha Xi Delta sorority sisters came to party!


We ALWAYS have a ball when we get together!


We love you, Connie!




March 5, 2010

Trip Planning: What is Important?

When going away for the weekend, I used to research things to do or see in the location. I often looked for shopping opportunities, sometimes music or entertainment offerings.

Now I research FOOD!

Next week's Slow Travel Great San Diego Gathering has most meals built in.

So what was left to explore in the San Diego area when I know where to eat and shop?


For anyone interested, here is a blog about the Top 10 San Diego Cafes and Coffee Shops.

I will try out a couple!

Otherwise, between events, you will find me sipping a latte somewhere on this street!


March 20, 2010

Little Italy Mercato


A week ago today, last Saturday morning, after a couple double lattes, we set out with Jerry and Paul to shop and walk around the Mercato in Little Italy. This is one of my favorite farmer's markets around. I love bringing home flats of figs in the summer, and the produce is always beautiful.






The market is fun in and of itself, but what could make it even better? Bumping into Slow Travel buddies on the street.


What better place for a photo than in "Amici Park"?


I think I could live here! Gelato, panini, and good coffee. As close to Italy as I can get in a short drive! It was too chilly for me, but the boys enjoyed their morning gelato snack.



Finally, Brad and I stopped for a relaxing lunch at Sogno di Vino. YUM...a mozzarella, prosciutto and fig jam panino!


May 4, 2010

A May Day Party

Our neighbors, Cindy and Don, hosted a great party Saturday night. Their back yard is the perfect place to eat, drink, and visit with friends! The weather, food and neighbors were all terrific! Thanks, Cindy and Don!







May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo and Why I LOVE May!


I'm wearing my Mexican top in honor of Cinco de Mayo! I love the whole month of May! Here are 10 reasons why:

1. May weather! It is in the 90's. We have had WAY TOO MUCH winter this year, cold temps, rainy days, and lately WIND, all make for a crabby Palmabella. Give me HOT, and I am back to my happy self. Triple digits this week!

2. May flowers: the last blooms before we plant HEAT tolerant stuff for the summer!

3. The Desert EMPTIES! In Palm Desert, we go from about 120,000 winter residents (the Snowbirds), back to 35,000 people. This means no traffic, parking anywhere, no reservations needed, and many local restaurants reward the "year rounders" with "all night happy hours" or "half price wine nights" during the summer.

4. Brad's Birthday! May 10

5. MY birthday! May 12

6. Mother's Day: This one is bitter sweet, as I always wanted to be a mom, and I really miss my mom, who died in 1984. Well, I have BECOME my mother, and I have wonderful Godchildren, Corey, Chaudra, Casey and Sarah, as well as their beautiful kids, Cadence, Cheira, and Noah to love!

7. Poppies bloom in May, and I have new poppy dishes!


8. Pool time! I have been swimming, exercising, and having a little time on my raft. It feels SO good in that water!

9. A weekend in Vegas. Hoping to be a big winner to pay for Number 10...

10. ITALIA!!!

Happy May!


May 7, 2010

I've Been Painting...Bologna!


I have found the "secret" to weight loss! I've already commented on how happy I am with the warm weather and being in my pool every day, so the exercise is good, the water is relaxing, but I can only take so much sun! When not working, you will find me at the kitchen table or on my patio with my watercolors! It keeps me from cooking and baking, and somewhat away from my obsession with food. Since I am VERY excited about my upcoming Italian study, I have been painting BOLOGNA scenes!

My apartment is close to the lovely Piazza Santo Stefano:


I picture myself walking around the city:


I paint from photographs, and found this one on the internet. Then I realized it came from my friend Jane's blog! I will spend my first night in Bologna in Hotel Porto San Mamolo. When I stayed there before, I loved this little courtyard area. Thanks, Jane!

Photo by Jane:


Of course, one of my favorite parts of Bologna is the market area! This trip, I will be able to bring home food to my own apartment kitchen!


Here is a shot of the wonderful Piazza Maggiore. I can sit and study, watch people, have a glass of wine or coffee, and practice my Italian on friendly cafe patrons.


My favorite (and most challenging) painting was trying to get the perspective correct on the stunning portici!


Two weeks...Bologna LIVE!

May 9, 2010

Roses for Mom

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May 21, 2010

THE Cooking School in Tuscany?


If all has gone well, I am on a plane this morning on my way to Philadelphia, then to Frankfurt, and finally to Bologna! But I couldn't leave you blogless, could I? I will check in as soon as possible! Ciao for now...

We've all seen the commercial about a popular restaurant chain's supposed "Culinary School in Tuscany". In my circle of friends who love Italy and cook Italian food, this either gets a laugh, an eye roll, or a comment like, "Yeah, right...". This article tells the real story about the chefs' training at that place. I personally, have never entered one of these restaurants, and there is NO chance that I will change that any time soon.

Check out this post from Wallet Pop Or read it here...


Advertising can be a murky world. It's hard to tell what's real, and what's not.

There really was a Chef Boyardee, for instance, although the inspiration behind Chef Boyardee spelled his last name in the more ethnically-correct manner: Boirdi.

The easier to pronouce Betty Crocker, however, was a complete invention by Madison Ave. Even though I'd like to think there's a tiger named Tony who really thinks Frosted Flakes are great, I'm pretty sure he isn't real either. Ditto for Ronald McDonald.

That's why it's kind of nice to know that Olive Garden, that most all-American of family-style Italian restaurants, isn't embellishing when it claims to have its own culinary institute. Those TV ads are apparently true. There really is an Olive Garden Culinary Institute of Tuscany.

Depending how you feel about the truth, you may feel that it's stretched slightly, though., a blog that focuses on popular culture and travel, recently "broke" the burning question as to whether the institute actually exists (thank God, because I had been up at night wondering).

According to their sources, the "institute" is a group of attractive, rustic buildings with a pool, but that it isn't a full-time Olive Garden cooking school. The chain sends some of its cooks, managers and waiters there every once in awhile, to work on training and menu development. The Consumerist mentions that visitors can tour the school and take classes there.

I contacted the Olive Garden to see if I could get a comment or some more information on this vaunted institute -- vaunted enough to make it onto the chain's TV ads -- but they couldn't get anyone to me for an interview by press time. They did, however, point me to the Institute's web page, which describes the "institute's" rustic buildings, located in the 11th-century village of Riserva di Fizzano. It states that more than 100 managers visit the school every year, where they immerse themselves in Italian cuisine for a week.

So yes, Olive Garden does indeed operate a cooking school, but calling it the Olive Garden Culinary Institute of Tuscany? That may be stretching things just a little.

Next, I'm hoping Jaunted or some other website exposes the truth about the advertisements of a certain famous candy. I could be way off here, but I'm guessing those talking M&M's I keep seeing might not be authentic, talking M&M's.

Still not convinced? You may get a chuckle from this very politically INcorrect spoof from MadTV:

June 30, 2010

My 40th High School Reunion

Last weekend, I attended my 40th class reunion from Bullard High School in Fresno, CA. I had a BLAST!

We arrived on Thursday evening, and had dinner with my friend, Bea. I hadn't seen her since somewhere around 1973! It was a great evening, spent catching up on the last 36 years, marriages, divorces, careers, families, etc.


We stayed at a hotel where other out-of town Bullard alumnae were staying, and immediately began seeing classmates on Friday morning. There was also a hospitality suite where friends could gather.


Friday, during the day, we went to some of our old haunts for coffee, shopping and lunch before Friday evening's party.

Let me give a little background on my high school. Some might say "snobby", "cliquey", or a group of entitled brats. I wasn't in the "cheerleader-most popular" crowd, but I had many friends, good grades, and was involved in drama, forensics, and have happy memories of my three years at Bullard. But we WERE the first class that didn't want to go to Disneyland after our Grad night, due to not wanting to spend 4 hours on a bus together...

Friday night, classmate, Karen, opened her home to 110 of us (Grads only). Bea and I went together after dropping Brad off at a movie.

We were greeted by two Bullard "Knights" in the driveway (and another in the backyard).


The planning committee made a great spread of appetizers and desserts. We were all over the house, and backyard by the pool and bar. Shrieks of recognition and gales of laughter could be heard down the street. Everyone mingled, and even those who may not have given me the time of day in high school were friendly and interested. We connected with old friends, and made new ones. It was fabulous! I was so busy having fun, I only took 2 photos...of the FOOD!



Saturday, there was a golf clinic, a golf tournament, or a free day. We began Saturday's festivities at the hospitality suite. Who knew Kirby would also end up a therapist in southern California?


Saturday night we gathered held at San Joaquin Country Club for a dinner and dancing. Here is a group shot of those who went to Bullard ELEMENTARY!


It was really fabulous to see my best friends from Junior High School/high school, twins, Jeannie and Janet! They laughed when saying I became a therapist because of them! (I was just wise enough to not get caught in the middle of their sister arguments.)


Bea argued that she was my first CLIENT!


More of my friends since elementary school: Carol, Sally, and Chris!




Maureen (Mo) made tons of desserts for both nights! Another baker!


Childhood friends Kathy and Mary Liz look EXACTLY the same!


Boys, you ask? Oh sure, it was fun chatting with my first crush, and with the guy who gave me my first kiss, but I think I'll stick with this guy!


Thanks to the reunion committee for planning a wonderful weekend! I can't wait for the next one!

July 4, 2010

3rd Corner

We have a new place to hang out in Palm Desert!


3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro


The site of our old "Palomino Restaurant" has been empty for a couple of years. We were thrilled that Restauranteur and "wine guy", Ed Moore, decided on Palm Desert for his newest endeavor. He has successful locations in Ocean Beach, Encinitas, and now Palm Desert! 8000 square feet of fun that includes a well-stocked retail wine shop, a wine bar, and restaurant!


It has only been open a week, but good news travels fast! Brad and I checked it out last week, and returned Saturday night with Shannon, Nancy and Bill.


There are some cool decorating touches in this large space: Cork walls with wine crate art, great lamps and light fixtures!




There's MORE good news: great staff! We enjoyed Drew, our server, and Sean, the friendliest bartender!


There is also a good menu. We tried a pate sampler, melted Humbolt fog cheese with mushrooms, and a duck confit, brie, arugula and caramelized onion flatbread!



So grab a friend...


and check out 3rd Corner!


July 12, 2010

Cantinetta Luca

Our first evening in Carmel was just perfect! We arrive at "Woodipoint", the charming Carmel home of our friends, Lynn and Gary, and had a few hours to visit and relax before introducing them to our "Slow Travel world", and dinner with Wendy and Rob, and Sharon and Ed at Cantinetta Luca in Carmel.



The restaurant makes their own delicious Italian cured meat products...oh my! They do it VERY well! We devoured TWO of these salumi platters with delicious warm bread and thin crispy breadsticks.



Manager, Giuseppe Panzuto, was charming and attentive, and any friends of Wendy and Rob became "part of the family".


The food??? FABULOUS! We were having way too much fun, wine and laughter, so I don't have many food shots. Here is Gary's Papardelle Bolognese, and Brad's Fettucini Nero with sweet shrimp, garlic, olive oil and chili.



Lynn and I both had a wonderful fresh fig-gorgonzola-arugula pizza.


Everything was REALLY delicious, from the "Tricolore Salad" (with bitter greens, green apple, HUGE chunks of gorgonzola and a honey vinaigrette), to Wendy's fava bean risotto, Ed's braised lamb shank, and Sharon's salmon. For a special splurge, treat yourself to the AMAZING Bistecca alla Fiorentina, best one this side of Firenze! (I didn't get a photo, but I get get a few bites!)

The Italian wine list was excellent. I was in heaven with some good Arneis, and the red wine crowd was quite happy with the Barbera! Wendy chose come grappa, and what could make Palma happier after dinner than a double fisted coffee/Brachetto treat?


Here are the happy diners: Brad and Lynn


Palma and Gary:


Ed and Sharon:


Wendy and Palma:


It was a PERFECT kickoff to our weekend fun!


July 13, 2010

Fire pits, Vino and Bagpipes at Spanish Bay

(Photo Credit Joann Dost)

Our weekend in the Carmel-Monterey area continued to involve great friends, wine and food! On Saturday evening, we met on the beautiful 17-Mile Drive resort in Pacific Grove, at the Inn at Spanish Bay.

We gathered at 5:00 on the patio at a fire pit, with blankets and some wine to keep us warm.









At around 6:00, you can begin to hear the faint sounds of a bagpipe in the distance. The crowd begins to come out to the lawn to watch the bagpiper walk along the path from the golf course, along the dunes, then closer to us as he plays.





You can hear him for yourself:


Tomorrow: Dinner with the gang at Peppoli!

July 15, 2010


It was a wonderful visit with old friends, Gary and Lynn, at their charming Carmel home, "Woodipoint". With a 50 degree temperature difference, it was also nice to have three days of cool weather!



Lynn and Gary joined us on Friday night at Cantinetta Luca, and got a peek into our "Slow Travel World".


Saturday, we had brunch, and Lynn and I did a little shopping. Gary and Brad "hung out".


We enjoyed "the kids", Isaac and Isabelle:



Sunday, Lynn made a great breakfast, and Brad and Gary watched soccer while she showed me her office, and we strolled through a few shops.


We'll be back... same time next year!

July 16, 2010

Bistro 211

This will be my last Carmel post for last weekend. LOL It seems like we were there longer, huh?

On Saturday, we had bunch at Bistro 211.


I LOVED the brightly painted wall. So colorful and fun!


Here was my favorite part of the mural!


Breakfast was also delicious. Lynn had turkey benedict with hollandaise on the side:


I enjoyed my eggs, crispy bacon and lemon-vanilla pancakes:


Brad had "Chargrilled eggs". Do you have a visual of them breaking eggs on a BBQ grill and watching them slide down into the coals? They fry them first, then get the grill marks on one side!



Lynn has never read a blog. She can't figure out why I do this every day. Gary thought I should make my blog more controversial by making stuff up to see if anyone notices. What do YOU think?

July 19, 2010

Life Explained

On the first day, God created the dog and said, "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years."

The dog said, "That's a long time to be barking. How about only ten years? I'll give you back the other ten?"

So God agreed......


On the second day, God created the monkey and said, "Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span.."

The monkey said, "Monkey tricks for twenty years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?"

And God agreed......


On the third day, God created the cow and said, "You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years."

The cow said, "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty? I'll give back the other forty."

And God agreed again.......


On the fourth day, God created humans and said, "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years."

But the human said, "Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?"

"Okay," said God. "You asked for it."

So that is why for our first twenty years, we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves.
For the next forty years, we slave in the sun to support our family.
For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren.
And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.

There is no need to thank me for this valuable information. I'm doing it as a public service.

July 21, 2010

The Botticelli Secret


Luciana is a prostitute in Florence in 1482. She meets a handsome monk, Brother Guido, who tries to convert her from her sinful profession. Luciana poses for Florintine artist, Botticelli, as "Flora" in his painting the Primavera. She makes a comment that angers Botticelli, and he sends her away unpaid. Before leaving, she steals his small copy of the painting, and immediately people are murdered around her. She, along with her friend, Brother Guido, begin running for their lives on a journey through Italy. Clues are revealed in the painting that help them unravel a complicated and mysterious conspiracy.


This book has everything: great characters like the lovable and foul mouthed Luciana, and cultured, intelligent Brother Guido. You will travel with them from Florence to Pisa, Naples, Rome, Venice, Bolzano, Milan and Genoa. You will meet religious and political leaders from history, with unexpected twists and turns along the way. This book is more than just good historical fiction. There is art history, a pope, the Medici family and several other complicated family relationships. Luciana is a riot. You also get a love story and mystery all rolled into one book. The frosting on the cake is a trip through 15th century Italy. Brava to author, Marina Fiorato!

Hope you will enjoy it!

July 29, 2010


To all my girlfriends: If you haven't seen this circulating the email circuit, you will get a chuckle. This is an "actual letter" from an Austin , Texas woman sent to Proctor and Gamble regarding one of their feminine products. She really gets rolling after the first paragraph. This was PC Magazine's 2009 Editors' Choice award-winner for the best letter sent via e-mail.

"Dear Mr. Thatcher,

I have been a loyal user of your 'Always' maxi pads for over 20 years and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the LeakGuard Core or Dri-Weave absorbency, I'd probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I'd certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in tight, white shorts.

But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic I can't tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there's a little F-16 in my pants.

Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? I'm guessing you haven't. Well, my time of the month is starting right now. As I type, I can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body. Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I'll be transformed into what my husband likes to call 'an inbred hillbilly with knife skills.'

Isn't the human body amazing?

As Brand Manager in the Feminine-Hygiene Division, you've no doubt seen quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customer's monthly visits from 'Aunt Flo'. Therefore, you must know about the bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our intense mood swings, crying jags, and out-of-control behavior. You surely realize it's a tough time for most women.

The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just crawling with homicidal maniacs in Capri pants... Which brings me to the reason for my letter. Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi-pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: 'Have a Happy Period.'


Are you f------ kidding me? What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness - actual smiling, laughing happiness, is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James? FYI, unless you're some kind of sick S&M freak, there will never be anything 'happy' about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and Kahlua and lock yourself in your house just so you don't march down to the local Walgreen's armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory.

For the love of God, pull your head out, man! If you have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn't it make more sense to say something that's actually pertinent, like 'Put down the Hammer' or 'Vehicular Manslaughter is Wrong'.

Sir, please inform your Accounting Department that, effective immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will certainly miss your Flex-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your brand of condescending bullsh!t. And that's a promise I will keep.

Always. . ...

Wendi Aarons
Austin , TX "

Google her! She is real!

July 30, 2010

I Need a Favor


It is that time of the year again.

I need a small favor ... I wouldn't ask this if you were not such a good friend.

I am going away on vacation, and I need a friend to drop by to water my plants while I am gone. The plants are mostly geraniums and begonias. If it's not too much trouble, in the hot weather they'll probably only need water once a day.

I'll be gone only a week. I'll send you a post card!

Thanks so much. :-)

Continue reading "I Need a Favor" »

August 5, 2010



During a recent password audit, it was found that a
blonde was using the following password:


When asked why she had such a long password, she said she was told that it had to be at least 8 characters long and include at least one capital.

August 11, 2010


No this is not a recipe! I've been PAINTING vegetables!


The last two Saturday mornings, I have taken an informal painting class at my friend, Maria's home with some others who enjoy watercolors. We are all relative beginners, with different styles, and we have a lot of fun painting together, and learning from each other. Maria is there to guide us along, or teach us a skill, or help us when we mess something up!

Maria's big, bright , colorful veggies are gorgeous!


Here they are closer:


We set up a still life of some peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and garlic. I added some balsamico. Shadows intimidated me completely! Here they are...


Gerta did some absolutely stunning huge pears!


At home I did a more whimsical version of "soffrito".


August 13, 2010

Asparagus Painting

My watercolor group met again last week and we painted ASPARAGUS! We simple put a bunch of fresh asparagus, tied with raffia on Maria's counter, and each sketched and painted what we saw. You can see each person's use of color, space, and perception of the asparagus is slightly different.

Who knew there were so many colors in asparagus? I used three shades of green, yellow, crimson, violet, brown and yellow ocher in my painting!

Maria walked around and gave advice and encouraging comments.



Here are the results: Madonna's asparagus:


Gerta's asparagus:


Carrie's asparagus:


and Palma's asparagus:


August 23, 2010

Pinot & Ponies 2010

We had a fun San Diego weekend as usual.

Friday night, Marcia and David, Jane and Ken, Charity, Bill and Sharon all met us for dinner at Buon Appetito in Little Italy. The lobster ravioli were divine!


Saturday, we strolled around the market, then met at noon for our afternoon at Del Mar race track. We enjoyed great picnic food and an afternoon in box seats David's friend provided us.

Then we met for dinner at the Vine. This involved Shannon's pate, burrata, wonderful salads and entrees!


Nancy, Shannon and I are getting excited about being in Venice together next May for a Grapehops Tour!


Shannon made two fabulous ice creams: Absinthe with chocolate and nutella with hazelnuts! Oh MY!


The weekend was a perfect get-away!

August 24, 2010

Amici in Little Italy

In 43 hours, at La Pensione Hotel in San Diego, I drank enough of these (with some help from Brad) to fill up my Cafe Italia card, and earn a free latte.


I love this caffe! It really got me in the mood for good coffee in Italy!


Here are Marcia, Sharon and I in Amici Park. How appropriate!


August 25, 2010

Need a Chuckle?

Hopefully, I have enough "stars in heaven" from teaching at a Catholic school for years to get away with this one...

There were 3 good arguments that Jesus was Black:

1. He called everyone brother
2. He liked Gospel
3. He didn't get a fair trial

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Jewish:

1. He went into His Father's business
2. He lived at home until he was 33
3. He was sure his Mother was a virgin and his Mother was sure He was God

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Italian:

1. He talked with His hands
2. He had wine with His meals
3. He used olive oil

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was a Californian:

1. He never cut His hair
2. He walked around barefoot all the time
3. He started a new religion

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was an American Indian:

1. He was at peace with nature
2. He ate a lot of fish
3. He talked about the Great Spirit

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Irish:

1. He never got married..
2. He was always telling stories.
3. He loved green pastures.

But the most compelling evidence of all - 3 proofs that Jesus was a woman:

1. He fed a crowd at a moment's notice when there was virtually no food
2. He kept trying to get a message across to a bunch of men who just didn't get it
3. And even when He was dead, He had to get up because there was still work to do

October 10, 2010

Fall Weekend

Where can we have cool fall weather, a wine bar with music, great Italian food and charming hosts? Back in Italy of course, but we are in RENO, visiting our good friends, Fiona and Steve in their summer home!

We arrived Friday morning (a 4:30 a.m. departure from Palm Desert, flights from ONT to OAK, then OAK to RNO) before 10. The day began with exploring Fiona and Steve's neighborhood and beautiful home they purchased last spring. It is our first visit here, but is looking like it will have to become an annual event!

We have a charming guest room and bath, complete with a coffee pot, tray of beverages and snacks rivaling any 5 star hotel. Fiona fixed a great fall lunch of salad, melon, garlic bread, chicken and broccoli.


We had a wonderful Italian meal at Bella Vista.





Their community even has a wine bar with music on weekends! That was where we ended our evening. How cool! You can walk home in a block!


October 20, 2010

Everything APPLE

Sunday we went for our second annual drive up to Oak Glen, about a 50 minute drive from Palm Desert. There are LOTS of apple farms where you can pick your own, or buy them in bags. There is a huge trip tip BBQ on weekends, cider pressing, pumpkins, bakeries with apple pies, and lots more. I was really hoping for fall leaves, but there was really only one spectacular tree! We must be too early, and it has been warmer than usual. Here are the highlights:

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Of course you know what is coming! APPLE PIE!

This year, I tried the Willams-Sonoma recipe for Caramel Apple Pie.




November 1, 2010

Ponte Family Estate Brunch

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November 24, 2010

A Lovely Open House

Our neighbor's, Donna and Ed hosted an Open House Saturday night.

Palmabella's Cucina made 4 dozen appetizers for the event, and also got to go to the party as a guest! We enjoyed wonderful company, and good food and wine, chatting with both old friends and several "new to us" couples from the neighborhood. I asked

I asked Donna if I could share a taste of their extensive glass collection. Before you even enter the front door, you begin to notice large, beautiful pieces of brightly colored blown glass art. On the front porch, all over the living room, on the patio, and even two large pieces on the kitchen counters. (That would never work in MY kitchen. They'd be covered with flour the first day!)


Brad got a better shot of the lighting on these pieces


On the dining room table:


Candles by the pool:


Thank you, Donna and Ed, for a great party in your beautiful home!


February 25, 2011

King Arthur and the Witch


Young King Arthur was ambushed and imprisoned by the monarch of a neighboring kingdom. The monarch could have killed him but was moved by Arthur's youth and ideals. So, the monarch offered him his freedom, as long as he could answer a very difficult question. Arthur would have a year to figure out the answer and, if after a year, he still had no answer, he would be put to death.

The question?...What do women really want? Such a question would perplex even the most knowledgeable man, and to young Arthur, it seemed an impossible query. But, since it was better than death, he accepted the monarch's proposition to have an answer by year's end.

He returned to his kingdom and began to poll everyone: the princess, the priests, the wise men and even the court jester. He spoke with everyone, but no one could give him a satisfactory answer.

Many people advised him to consult the old witch, for only she would have the answer.

But the price would be high; as the witch was famous throughout the kingdom for the exorbitant prices she charged.

The last day of the year arrived and Arthur had no choice but to talk to the witch. She agreed to answer the question, but he would have to agree to her price first.

The old witch wanted to marry Sir Lancelot, the most noble of the Knights of the Round Table and Arthur's closest friend!

Young Arthur was horrified. She was hunchbacked and hideous, had only one tooth, smelled like sewage, made obscene noises, etc. He had never encountered such a repugnant creature in all his life.

He refused to force his friend to marry her and endure such a terrible burden; but Lancelot, learning of the proposal, spoke with Arthur

He said nothing was too big of a sacrifice compared to Arthur's life and the preservation of the Round Table.

Hence, a wedding was proclaimed and the witch answered Arthur's question thus:

What a woman really wants, she to be in charge of her own life.

Everyone in the kingdom instantly knew that the witch had uttered a great truth and that Arthur's life would be spared.

And so it was, the neighboring monarch granted Arthur his freedom and Lancelot and the witch had a wonderful wedding.

The honeymoon hour approached and Lancelot, steeling himself for a horrific experience, entered the bedroom. But, what a sight awaited him. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen lay before him on the bed. The astounded Lancelot asked what had happened

The beauty replied that since he had been so kind to her when she appeared as a witch, she would henceforth, be her horrible deformed self only half the time and the beautiful maiden the other half.

Which would he prefer? Beautiful during the day....or night?

Lancelot pondered the predicament. During the day, a beautiful woman to show off to his friends, but at night, in the privacy of his castle, an old witch? Or, would he prefer having a hideous witch during the day, but by night, a beautiful woman for him to enjoy wondrous intimate moments?

What would YOU do?

What Lancelot chose is below.

BUT....make YOUR choice before you click below.


Continue reading "King Arthur and the Witch" »

February 28, 2011

My Red Carpet Favorites

My favorites: Let's hear it for RED!

Jennifer Hudson's red gown was stunning. What a great way to show off her new figure!


Let's face it, Sandra could wear a garbage bag and look good, but I loved her red dress (minus the butt bow)!


Jennifer Lawrence show us that all the glitz, jewels, feathers and beads are NOT necessary!


Honorable mentions:

Aishwarya Rai is gorgeous in this bronze glamourous gown.


Hailee Steinfeld looked pretty as a princess in her pink dress.


My LEAST favorite dress of the night: Marisa Tomei's dress did NOT work for me.


What do YOU think?

March 6, 2011

Watercolor Show

On Saturday we went to a Watercolor Art Show at Palm Desert's Classic Club. There were many painting to view, and lots of painting for sale at very reasonable prices.


Here were a few of my favorites: (For some reason I loved the FOOD, and the other is obvious!)




Then we had a great lunch overlooking the beautiful golf course!



March 9, 2011

A Spring Basket of Color

Start with a container: any size, and shape, something old or new, even something you can "recycle".

I chose this green mossy basket"


Add a bright ribbon.


I found some cheap flowering plants at Trader Joe's.


Fill the basket so it is attractive from all directions, and you are done! Keep the plants watered! Next month, I'll add a bunny or some eggs.




March 18, 2011

How About These Gas Prices?

First, I am passing on this email I got on tips for pumping gas:


I don't know what you guys are paying for gasoline.... but here in
California we are paying up to $3.75 to $4.10 per gallon. My line of
work is in petroleum for about 31 years now, so here are some tricks
to get more of your money's worth for every gallon:

Here at the Kinder Morgan Pipeline where I work in San Jose, CA we
deliver about 4 million gallons in a 24-hour period thru the
pipeline.. One day is diesel the next day is jet fuel, and gasoline,
regular and premium grades. We have 34-storage tanks here with a
total capacity of 16,800,000 gallons.

Only buy or fill up your car or truck in the early morning when the
ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations
have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground
the more dense the gasoline, when it gets warmer gasoline expands, so
buying in the afternoon or in the evening....your gallon is not
exactly a gallon. In the petroleum business, the specific gravity and
the temperature of the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, ethanol and
other petroleum products plays an important role.

A 1-degree rise in temperature is a big deal for this business. But
the service stations do not have temperature compensation at the

When you're filling up do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a
fast mode If you look you will see that the trigger has three (3)
stages: low, middle, and high. You should be pumping on low mode,
thereby minimizing the vapors that are created while you are pumping.
All hoses at the pump have a vapor return. If you are pumping on the
fast rate, some of the liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapor.
Those vapors are being sucked up and back into the underground
storage tank so you're getting less worth for your money.

One of the most important tips is to fill up when your gas tank is
HALF FULL. The reason for this is the more gas you have in your tank
the less air occupying its empty space. Gasoline evaporates faster
than you can imagine. Gasoline storage tanks have an internal
floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the gas and
the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation. Unlike service
stations, here where I work, every truck that we load is temperature
compensated so that every gallon is actually the exact amount.

Another reminder, if there is a gasoline truck pumping into the
storage tanks when you stop to buy gas, DO NOT fill up; most likely
the gasoline is being stirred up as the gas is being delivered, and
you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the

Now for some gasoline humor (passed on from Sheri):
















May 1, 2011

Summer Tables Settings

I'll only be at home for two more weeks, but when I return, it will be SUMMER! My dining room and kitchen tables are ready.

Lemons are bright and sunny.


In the kitchen, more bright summer colors:



July 18, 2011

Summer Painting

I've been painting my travels since I returned from Italy! This weekend I took advantage of the Aaron Brothers annual July penny sale (buy any frame, get another for a penny).





Villa Monastero, Varenna






July 19, 2011

Herb Garden

Start with a wooden carry-all...


Add three flower pots and your favorite herbs...


It makes a great centerpiece for al fresco dinners!


August 10, 2011

7 Links

My friend, Janie, of Panini Girl, tagged me to participate in 7 Links.
After blogging for almost 5 years, it was interesting to see how my blog has changed. I think this meme has traveled all over Italy's blogosphere, and is now doing the North America circuit!

This is a look back on seven posts.

1. Most Beautiful:

Tie (I always think food is beautiful!) Chocolate and Caramel Cake


Waking Up in Italy


2. Most Popular
Well my new cinquecento was a pretty popular post!

Time to Say Good-bye


3. Most Controversial

I don't really write much that is controversial, since my blog is usually about food of Italy, but there was that time I told off a table full of rude Italian men...

Italian Confrontation

4. Most Helpful: How about where to have the best coffee in Rome?

Wake Up and Smell the Rome


5. Blog Post where the Success Surprised Me

Not gorgeous photos of Italy, or even a fabulous recipe! This was a post a few years ago where I wrote about going through a period of depression. It showed me how much my readers and friend really care! I just got teary reading all the wonderful comments again.

The Dark Clouds Are Lifting

6. Blog Post that Didn't Get Attention it Deserved:

This one was easy! The first thing that came to mind was my spaghetti and meatball cake! It was even cuter than the photo!

Italian Dinner Party: Part 2


7. Post You Are Most Proud of:

The Food, the Food!

This was our some of our Friday night's cocktail party food at the San Diego Slow Travel Gathering in 2010!


August 11, 2011


I have named the new baby "Bianca" for obvious reasons. Yesterday, she got her Italian stripes, an accessory we NEEDED! Now she is ready to go anywhere!





I tried to coordinate with her... (I know...too much time on my hands!)


For anyone who worries I am "over the top", I promise I will not order either of these for our living room!



August 19, 2011

Watercolor of the Week

A door in Rome...


We are in Las Vegas for the weekend. While we're away, my laptop is going to the Mac Doctor at the Apple Store to fix its DVD player that is not working. I've tried to blog ahead for a few days, so hopefully, I'll get it back on Monday!

August 23, 2011

Vegas Rocks!

Many of you have heard about our AMAZING weekend in Las Vegas. We took "Bianca", and she got lots of looks, and thumbs up on the freeway, and many comments at red lights and from the Valet parking people. She was quite a hit, and we had a blast driving on the strip with top down blasting Italian pop music!

We got in around 9:30 on Thursday evening, when Brad was the big winner ending up $300 ahead. I lost my $100 daily budget and went to sleep! He gave me $100 as a consolation prize.

Friday, we had a fabulous lunch (more on that later), did some shopping, went to our favorite bar for Happy Hour wine, and had a light dinner at Sugar. We sat outside with a perfect view of the Bellagio water show.


We had a bowl of muscles and a chicken-spinach crepe.



After dinner, we went to our respective "favorite video poker machines" to play. I was doing well and still had most of my credits from the $100 I put in. Brad left the machine next to me to try his luck in another area of the casino. I was dealt three to a Royal Flush, a jack, king and ace of clubs. I threw out the two cards I didn't need, and first saw the 10 of clubs show up, and half an instant later the queen! OMG. Bells were ringing, and my mouth was hanging open! I had a Royal Flush! $1000.00!!!


I immediately cashed out and took my paper voucher to find Brad.


It was a GREAT evening. LOL I gave hime his $100 back!

The next morning, after coffee, we decided to play for a little while before going across the street to look at the flowers in the conservatory and have lunch at the Bellagio. We usually earn enough "points" in a weekend to get another three free room nights for our next visit. This time Brad was sitting next to me. I was dealt the ten, jack, king and ace of clubs. I thought, "What are the chances this could happen again?"
I hit the deal button, and there was that beautiful QUEEN! I broke into a cold sweat. I said, "Brad...look at my screen!" The bells were going off again! I cashed out and put my money in our room safe! I paid for drinks, dinner and Sunday's breakfast, and still brought home the whole $2000 I won! I LOVE the Paris Las Vegas! We'll be back for Thanksgiving!



August 25, 2011

Bellagio Flowers

It was time for a quick visit to the Bellagio Conservatory to look at the flower displays before lunch! Every season is beautiful, and I don't think we have ever been here for SUMMER! Enjoy...

a ferris wheel:


a huge Liberty Bell:


lots of hydrangias:



lots of hot air balloons:


a tree with some BIG birds:




bright and beautiful sunflowers:


a flower "painting":


some country bears:


and finally, poppy parasols. I'll take a red one!


August 29, 2011

More Summer Tables

I love to change table settings, both inside and outside. Here are a few recent ones:

A Book Club lunch for the four of us who stay in the desert during summer with lemons and figs:


Poppies and Sunflowers on the kitchen tables (in an empty tomato can):



Zinnias and Veggies:


Dining al fresco:



September 6, 2011


I've been collecting Italian ceramics since our first trip to Italy. Here is a collage of some of my treasures:


There is no more room for ceramics in my kitchen, but I will be dangerously close to a favorite ceramics shop in Orvieto soon. We shall see...

September 8, 2011

Watercolor Figs

Not only have we been EATING fresh figs, but I painted some too!


November 9, 2011

Fall Leaves

We are having some "cool" fall weather. It is actually in the 60s and 70s! What we DON'T have are fall leaves. We have new green grass in everyone's yards, and on all the golf courses, and new "spring" flowers. I just planted tons of geraniums, pansies, snapdragons and Asian poppies, and the roses are all in bloom. But every year at this time, I hope to get a glimpse of some colorful fall leaves somewhere else in our travels, and so I took some fall leaf photos when we were in Reno in October:

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November 10, 2011

Ferrari Kids

How cute are Noah and Gabriel in their Ferrari shirts from Great Godnonna & Brad?


Gabe looks ready to drive one NOW!


November 13, 2011

Palm Desert Italian Festival

Last weekend was the first ever Palm Desert Italian Festival. Of course we attended, even though I was on pain meds and couldn't eat or drink anything except some very good gelato!


We met Nancy and Bill for lunch, and ran into other friends as well. There were 4000 people in attendance, so I hope it will become an annual event. It was a beautiful day, and a great turnout. Hopefully, next year there will be more booths, more food, and even more people.


We hung out for a couple of hours, and Brad enjoyed a sausage sandwich, beer and gelato. I came home with Giovanni. He speaks Italian, and he even sings two songs in Italian if you squeeze his paw!


November 15, 2011

A November Table

I love fall!

The pumpkins from October are still around the house, but the turkeys came out for November.



November 16, 2011

Whitewater Preserve



We recently learned about the Whitewater Preserve, which is just 20 minutes from our house. The above photo shows the amount of water after a dry summer. Last January the water was flooding after a brief rain.

We decided to take Luigi out for an outing a "nature walk". OK, stop laughing! I am NOT known for being a nature girl! MY goal was to see some fall color, close to home!

We saw some fall leaves, and lots of picnic areas with mountain views:



There was a lovely little babbling creek:


Luigi had some ideas about exploring the creek that we vetoed!


There was a nice walking path:


Below the warm welcome, the sign showed us what we might see:


We decided NOT to walk to Mexico or Canada!


There are also several ponds, and even trout that will jump for food!



It was a great discovery, and right in our own back yard. Who knew?

January 16, 2012

Noah is Two!

Saturday we went to visit Noah and Gabriel's mommy and Daddy in Escondido for Noah's Birthday party. It was a wonderful day! Gabriel, who is almost 10 months old also took his first steps!

You may click on the pictures to enlarge them.

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January 22, 2012



I took this photo of a sculpture of colored pencils outside of an art gallery that I drive by almost every day. It is the first time I stopped, got out of the car, and walked up for a closer look. The pencils say the names of the colors: "Grumpy Green, Angry Orange", etc.

I think this is a FUN piece of art.

January 26, 2012

Sometimes a Bagel is JUST a Bagel!

"May I please have a gluten-free, low fat, low-carb, Omega-3, organic, high-fiber, flax seed toasted bagel with fat-free, Vegan cream cheese and a cup of decaf with soy non-dairy creamer and Splenda?"

"We don't have that!"

"Okay, great! I'll take a regular bagel with cream cheese, and a caffe latte, please."


January 27, 2012

Lou Buys a Computer

You have to be old enough to remember Abbott and Costello and too old
to REALLY understand computers, to fully appreciate this.
For those of us who sometimes get flustered by our computers, please read on...


If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their infamous sketch, 'Who's on First?' might have turned out
something like this:



ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: Thanks I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.


COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.

ABBOTT: Your computer?

COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.


COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.

ABBOTT: What about Windows?

COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?

ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?

COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?

ABBOTT: Wallpaper.

COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.

ABBOTT: Software for Windows?

COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business.
What do you have?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?

ABBOTT: I just did.

COSTELLO: You just did what?

ABBOTT: Recommend something.

COSTELLO: You recommended something?


COSTELLO: For my office?


COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!

ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.

COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to
type a proposal. What do I need?


COSTELLO: What word?

ABBOTT: Word in Office.

COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.

ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?

ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue 'W'.

COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue 'W' if you don't start with some straight answers. What about
financial bookkeeping? Do you have anything I can track my money with?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?

ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.

COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?

ABBOTT: Yes. At no extra charge.

COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?

ABBOTT: One copy.

COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?

ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.

COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?


(A few days later)

ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?
ABBOTT: Click on 'START'…….

January 31, 2012

We've Got Tickets to See Tom!

Tom Colicchio, that is! He'll be in Palm Desert on Thursday, February 23!


From the McCallum Theater website:

"One of the culinary world's most celebrated figures, James Beard Award winning chef and head judge of television's Emmy winning "Top Chef," Tom Colicchio makes his first appearance at the McCallum. It's an evening of talk about food, cooking, restaurants, questions and answers, and whatever else is on Tom's mind."

I'm ready with questions about the BEST pork belly I ever tasted at Craftsteak in Las Vegas, and where his favorite restaurants are in Italy?

Anyone else have a question for Tom?

February 16, 2012

Building in Lompoc

On our way to Lompoc's wine ghetto to visit Palmina Winery during Slow Bowl, we passed this interesting building in town. I actually asked Brad to drive around the block so I could snap some photos of the murals.



Pretty cool Trompe l'oeil, huh? You never know what you will see during a Slow Bowl weekend!


February 20, 2012

Connie's Birthday Weekend

My dear friend, Connie visited us over the weekend, and we had a ball celebrating her birthday week. She arrived on Friday evening and we had a simple soup and salad dinner.

Saturday night we began at the wine bar, meeting up with Linda, Charlene and Julie.


After our appetizers and vino, we hit the casino for a little gambling. Brad was the big winner at $260.

Sunday, we had breakfast at Keedy's.


Connie's birthday dinner was a stuffed pork roast, roasted pear soup and carrots. She declared it "one of her all-time favorite Palma meals"!



We ended the evening with presents and vanilla cookie bars with cream cheese frosting. When we weren't looking, Luigi stole FOUR of the cookie bars!



February 23, 2012

Another Addiction?


Just what I need...another addiction!


Like blogging every day doesn't take enough of my time!

I used to spend DAYS scrapbooking, but that got VERY expensive.

I used to spend HOURS on Slow Travel Talk, but many migrated to Facebook.

Now I can waste time on Pinterest for FREE!


I'm scared because I had a dream of new boards I want to create...

March 20, 2012

Lookin' for Peeps

After a cold weekend and Monday, the temperature is creeping back up to where it should be... back in the mid-80's by tomorrow! Everything looks like spring. Here are a vase of some jelly beans with some chicks looking for their Peeps!

Happy Spring!



April 24, 2012

Watercolor Sayings

I've been playing with my watercolors again. This time I used a wet paper technique with splashes of color to make colorful backgrounds for a couple of favorite quotes.



April 27, 2012

Altoid Tin Mini-Scrapbooks

An Altoid tin makes a clever little photo album. All you need is some ribbon, double stick tape, colored paper, glue, and some photos 2x 3 1/2.


Open the tin, and pull on the ribbon.


One side:


The other side: (holds up to 16 photos)


What a handy little gift or keepsake, and it is small enough to fit in your purse or pocket! Who knew!


Great for:

Party Favors
Travel Photos
Grandma’s Brag Book
Valentine’s Day
Teacher Gifts
Special Events
Thank-you gifts
Baby or Wedding Showers
or anything else you can think of! (I am doing one with a client with poor self esteem, listing her strengths, affirmations, positive statements about herself, etc.)

May 10, 2012

I Let Them Eat Cake!

Yesterday I had my interns over for Group Supervision and lunch in honor of our two trainees who have finished their Masters Degree practicum hours.We discussed cases, made Altoid mini-scrapbooks, and then celebrated Laura and Karla's upcoming graduation with lunch and CAKE!


Congratulations Laura and Karla!



May 11, 2012

Happy Birthday to Brad

Brad had a quiet, but happy birthday. He had birthday greetings at work, a nice dinner, cards, a shirt, some new earbuds and CAKE! He is feeling much better after his bought of "walking pneumonia". The antibiotics are working!

We grilled pork chops and artichokes, and Brad also got potatoes.


His triple layer chocolate cake covered in Milk Duds (Who's a DUD?) made him very happy.


My kitchen has become a bakery the past few days, but I have yet to taste a bite!
Will power is easy for me when it is chocolate!


June 18, 2012

Venice Necklace 2012


Ok, here is my new lovely necklace (and earrings) from Venezia! The first photo shows it laying on a matching iridescent blue/green silk shawl. I love how the glass beads have a matte finish. It looks lovely with all white, or any of my green or aqua clothes.


June 26, 2012

Luigi is a Couch Potato


Luigi is typically a couch potato during the day. He entertains himself with his toys, then goes back to this position on the couch or floor.


I leave Luigi in the house when I swim my laps, because when he is in the pool, he wants to retrieve his "floppy"... for HOURS. I cannot exercise and throw this flexible frisby at the same time, so unless Brad is home, I usually sneak out the bedroom door to swim. Luigi stands at the kitchen door and barks. Yesterday, on my second lap, I looked up and Luigi was running along the side of the pool! The door was WIDE OPEN. Guess what he learned how to do? He can now OPEN DOORS! Can you say, "Childproof locks"? Not good for us...

Maybe I could teach Luigi to exercise in the house?

June 28, 2012

Can YOUR i-Pad Do This?

I think we need the WINE app for Slow Bowl Weekend!

July 8, 2012

Duck Party 2012

We hosted a summer BBQ party last night for my professional association, CAMFT Desert Chapter (California Association of Marriage Family Therapists), of which I am the social chairman (go figure...). The theme was DUCKS!



My kitchen table was centered with a baby's blow-up swimming pool filled with all kinds of rubber duckies (for the duck race in the pool).


The patio table was filled with a larger wading pool and 200 pounds of ice to hold all the fixings for do-it-yourself grilled chicken and beef kabobs. A box of hospital exam gloves kept everyone's hands clean while dipping into three different bowls of marinated meats. The appetizers were baked brie with fig jam and hot fennel-bacon dip. Sides included Cinco di Mayo Salad, green salad with peaches, pancetta, shaved parmigiano and a peach-balsamic dressing, and watermelon.




Check out the fun:







Dessert? Of course there were rubber duckie cupcakes that quacked everyone up!
More on those tomorrow!


July 9, 2012

Rubber Duckie Cupcakes


These were quite a hit at our duck-themed party Saturday night! I got the idea from


Here's how (They use melted yellow frosting, but I used candy melts.):

Begin with a plain cupcake. I used vanilla.


Spread it with a little vanilla frosting.


Stick on a donut hole for the head, and a marshmallow cut in half diagonally for the tail.


Secure them with a little more frosting around the head and tail.


I did 6 at a time. Put these in the freezer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, for each 2 cupcakes, take an orange Starburst Fruit Chew, and cut it in half. With your fingers, smash it into a long rectangle, and round each end, so you have a long oval. Bend it in half to make a beak.

When the cupcakes are chilled, dip them in a bowl of melted yellow candy melts. I get them at Michael's (they have all colors), and attach the beak. Chill in fridge, and make 6 more.


Lastly, when they are all chilled, pipe on eyes, OR "glue on" a brown mini M&M.

For the "butt up" ducks, just glue on a marshmallow half in the center, freeze, dip in yellow coating. Cut a Starburst in half diagonally to make a triangle, and score it to make two webbed feet. These little guys are diving! (See top photo.)


July 11, 2012

Italian Dogs

I always seem to take photos of dogs on our travels to Italy! Here are a few from our recent trip:

These puppies were gathered in Piazza Santo Stefano, in Bologna, during aperitivo time.



This sweet boxer stays with mom in the glass shop in Ravenna.


This Bologna woman walks her SEVEN dogs at once. I would be tied up in leashes!


How adorable is this Lagotto Romagnolo we cuddled with in Urbino?


Need a poop bag? This dispenser in Modena has one for 20 cents.


We all know not to leave a dog in a hot car. If you want to linger in an Autogrill while traveling through Italy, they have just the thing for your pooch during your lunch break!


July 25, 2012

Making Art

I needed something for the wall over the bed in what WAS our guest room, and will soon be Federico's room. I ordered 5 large, thick, cut out wooden letters. They are 14 inches tall, 3 inches thick, and you can choose your font.


First I painted a sandy color across the bottom third of each letter using acrylic craft paint. When that was dry, I sponged on some gold flecks of "sand".


Add shades of aqua and blue "water", getting darker toward the horizon.


Add some sky, waves and foam.


Hang letters securely on the wall: (I took the photo from a weird angle. They really are straight.)


Cost: $130
Effect: Priceless

July 27, 2012

How Many Do YOU Understand?

This clarifies a lot! How many of these Italian dialects are you familiar with?


I can claim to understand TWO fluently (if we go south).

July 31, 2012

Bellagio Flowers

On our Las Vegas visits, I love to visit the Conservatory in the Bellagio and see the flowers and displays. I am never disappointed! Here, beginning in the lobby, is their look for summer:













August 1, 2012

Blog Challenge: Capture the Colours

Sandi at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking, tagged me on this blogging meme. The challenge is to look through your travel photos and find the colors: white, red, yellow, blue and green.

I chose one from a parmigiano casificio when they put the fresh cheese into the white molds.


Red was easy. Here is Brad and "his" Ferrari in Maranello.


Yellow came from the beautiful zucchini flowers at the Bologna market.


Blue came from Venice!


And when I think of green, the gorgeous landscape of Le Marche comes to mind!


The challenge is to :
- present 5 photographs from my travels showing the colours blue, green, yellow, red, and white
- nominate 5 bloggers to participate in the challenge
- complete the challenge and indicate you've entered by:
- linking to your blog post on your Facebook wall mentioning Capture the Colour and
tagging the Facebook page or...
- linking to your post via Twitter including @travelsupermkt and #capturethecolour in
The best Capture the Colour entries will be shared throughout the competition by expert judges and the TravelSupermarket social accounts.
Each judge will select their own colour category winners and will then combine to select the overall winner of the travel prize.

Any other bloggers want to play?

September 25, 2012

Italian Meet-up Party

Saturday night we attended a party with the Italian Meet-up Group of the Desert. This group was started about four years ago, and had a great run with lots of activities, but lost steam last year, and almost ended when our past leader resigned. Thankfully, someone stepped up to the plate, and a new leader, Chris, stepped up to the plate and took the reigns. Myself and a couple more people helped plan a party to "get some new blood" into the group. We had a nice turnout of about 20 people at Saturday evening's event. Federico voluntarily joined us and became a guest of honor! He spoke of his experience in American high school, and about his school in Italy. He also answered questions from the group. He was quite a hit!


Our gracious hostess, Clarissa, turned her home into cruise ship for our theme of "Cruise into the Season with the Italian Group of the Desert".


We met some great new friends, with excellent Italian language skills. Pam just got back from studying for her Master's degree for a year in Rome. Laura was an au pair in Italy for Princess Borghese! John's family is from Federico's region of Abruzzo, and Sebastiano, a native Siclian, and Marcus are new to the area and have opened a B&B after living in Puglia for five years. They will be hosting an October event. Here are a few photos of the festivities:








October 9, 2012

Trees and Leaves


TWO weekends in a row, I was in the mountains/hills! I am NOT a mountain girl! Give me the beach any day. Last weekend's visit to Idyllwild was only our second in 12 years in the desert, and it may take me another 6 years to go back. (I DID love that little lake though, because it was WATER!)

This past Sunday, we did a day trip that was more my speed: Oak Glen! It was our annual hour's ride from home into the foothills for apples, pumpkins and some fall leaves. Why all this mountain air, you ask? Federico, of course! He loves the trees! So off we went!

As it's name promises, there were LOTS of oak trees!


Though it is a bit early here, I was on a quest for some fall color. It just got below 100 degrees at our house, so not much chance of autumn leaves in Palm Desert. I was on a mission!


It wasn't looking good. All the trees were still green. But I don't give up easily. I spotted a tree in the distance. While Brad and Federico stayed in the car, I walked along the road with my camera until I could get close enough to the first one.




I drive everyone crazy with this every year. We really need to take a fall foliage trip to the east coast! A couple of hours later, I spotted another tree. Brad pulled over, and I walked to it. Hehehe. NOW we're talking!






I was a happy camper! Federico enjoyed the day, and Brad was a great sport driving (and stopping, every time I yelled, "Tree!").

October 10, 2012

Apples, Apples and More Apples


It's that time of the year to cook with apples! Oak Glen is our place to taste and buy them! There are many apple farms, pie shops (I like to make my own...), and places for a picnic.




You can pick your own, or buy them in bags, along with some unfiltered cider! We tasted 12 different apples, and each chose our favorite. Then we had BBQ tri-tip sandwiches under a maple tree. It was a lovely 72 degrees!



The next couple of weeks promise apple pie, apple cake, apple-squash soup, chicken with apples, pork with apples, and what ever else I come up with!


October 16, 2012

Share a Coke

I am a Diet Pespsi fan, BUT, ff you haven't seen this yet, enjoy the creativity and vision of these students! They are awesome!

October 18, 2012

Festa Italiana

Last Sunday we took a drive to San Diego for Little Italy's Festa Italiana. We typically go to the Reno Italian festival, but it is too far to drive up and back in a weekend, so we decided to try one closer to home. We were somewhat disappointed in the booths which were not much different than a regular craft fair anywhere, and most had nothing ITALIAN! We only stayed a couple of hours.

Brad headed straight for the cars, and Federico went to the Vespas.



While Federico wandered to eat a sausage sandwich and slice of pizza, Brad and I had a snack in an outdoor restaurant.


We all really enjoyed the street chalk artists (more on that tomorrow) using Italian Gesso on areas of black pavement.


We headed to the mall, then a nice visit with Shannon in her new home. We were back in the desert by dinner time.

October 19, 2012

Italian Gesso Art


Here are just a few of the Italian chalk artists from the Festa Italiana. Which is YOUR favorite?















December 3, 2012

Jokes for a Monday: The Apology and Financial Planning

The Apology:

Hi Sweetheart,

I am sorry about getting into an argument about putting up the Christmas lights. I guess that sometimes I feel like you are pushing me too hard when you want something.
I realize that I was wrong and I am apologizing for being such a hard-headed guy.
All I want is for you to be happy and be able to enjoy the holiday season. Nothing brightens the Christmas spirit like Christmas lights! I took the time to hang the lights for you today; and now I will be off to the hockey rink.

Again, I am very sorry for the way I acted yesterday. I'll be home later.

Love you
Her response -

Hi Honey,

Thank you for that heart-felt apology. I don't often get an apology from you, and I truly appreciate it. I, too, felt bad about the argument and wanted to apologize. I realize that I can sometimes be a little pushy.
I will try to respect your feelings from now on. Thank you for taking the time to hang the Christmas lights for me. It really means a lot.
In the spirit of giving, I washed your truck for you; and now I am off to the mall.

I love you too!



Financial Planning:

Dan was a single guy living at home in Chicago with his father and working in the family restaurant business. When he found out he was going to inherit a fortune when his cancer stricken father died, he decided he needed to find a wife with whom to share his fortune.
One evening, at an investment meeting, he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her natural beauty took his breath away.

"I may look like just an ordinary guy," he said to her, "But in just a few months my father will die and I will inherit $200 million dollars."
Impressed, the woman asked for his business card and three days later, she became his stepmother.
Women are so much better at financial planning than men are.

January 22, 2013

The Polo Match


After two weeks of frigid temperatures (in the 30s, 40's and 50's), last weekend was a glorious 78 degrees. We enjoyed the sunshine and good company of of our friends Jan and Les, who finally returned for "season" in the desert. We began Sunday morning as their guests for a wonderful champagne brunch at Rancho La Quinta Country Club.

After brunch, we were their guests at the Empire Polo Club to watch our first polo match.





The horses were beautiful, and the players were skilled. We were in a lovely cabana where drinks were served, and we stayed in the shade. This is the life!


Federico even got a ball that was hit out of bounds. What a lovely was to spend the afternoon. Then we came back to reality where Federico studied for finals, and I caught up on my paperwork!


January 29, 2013

A Sweet Treat

It's that time...


They didn't last long!

January 30, 2013

Pizza Night

We had a fun evening at Pizza Vino with Jan and Les with GREAT pizza!


Here are Brad's with Sicilian salami, Federico's with prosciutto and fungi, and mine with quattro formaggi and raw honey. Oh my!




February 7, 2013

The Elephant Seals


After our visit to Hearst Castle, Federico, Casey and I went to seal the Elephant Seals on the beach just north of San Simeon. What funny looking creatures they are!




Federico disturbed this guy from his nap!







January 14, 2014


This 500 piece puzzle was lots of fun!


January 21, 2014

A Weekend "Visit" to Rome

Can you tell, I don't have a life? I enjoyed the weekend "in Roma"!


June 30, 2014

Intern Pot Luck

Friday night I hosted a summer BBQ Pool Party for my interns. It started out as a "Buon Viaggio" Party for Senorina and I. (She and her husband are joining our GrapeHops-Palmabella's Italy group to Bologna and Venice.) Last week, our amazing Clinical Director, Lena, announced she is leaving our agency, so we wanted to honor her and spend some time time hanging out together.


The menu had an Italian theme! I made some home made pizze, some sausage pasta from Bologna, and served some parmigiano with balsamic honey, and prosciutto. Everyone brought the rest, and we drank wine all evening.



For dessert, I made a simple, do-ahead, refreshing lemon ice-cream cake.


Make a lemon cookie crust (3 c. lemon cookie crumbs, 4 oz. melted butter in bottom of a 9x13 pyrex. Bake 10 min. at 350. Cool)

The next layer is 1/2 gallon of vanilla ice cream mixed with 8 oz. lemon curd. Freeze.

Next, 2 pints of lemon gelato, softened and spread over ice cream layer. Freeze.

Top with lemon curd before serving!


August 19, 2014

Vegas with the Sisters

I had a great weekend catching up with my sorority sisters, Connie, Joy and Tammy in Las Vegas. We had lot of laughs, gambling, shopping, and decadent eating. Here we are at Guy Fieri's restaurant at the Linq. Food was so good (and so BAD)! Pictured are a French
dip, "Street Tacos", and the BEST spicy salami-wrapped breadsticks with a bowl of 4-cheese fonduta with Italian sausage!





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