31 January 2011


Just spending some time on the wintery morning (with a fresh cold!) fantasizing about a future trip to Italy, à la Walter Mitty. So far in our European travels, we've just touched on a tiny portion of Italy near Monaco, but definitely plan an Italian vacation in the near future.

Trevisio, Italy

I bought this magazine at our local librairie in Mougins, France during our visit in November-December and have been captivated by the images of this small hotel inside an ancient mill in Trevisio, Italy. At 120 Euros per night (including petit déjeuner ), I think it's a bargain. You can enjoy a five-course meal in the restaurant on weekends for about 45 Euros. And, there's a vineyard that provides the restaurant's cabernets.

I love the hanging glass ornaments. Something close to what I'd planned with the heart-shaped ornaments I lost at the airport in Nice.

From what I'm able to gather (with my near non-existent French) from the article, the mill which dates from 1564 was renovated by Elisabetta and (her husband) Silvio Stefani--an architect. There are five guest accomodations and a restaurant. Cote Sud doesn't seem to offer an on-line version of this article, but here're more details.

29 January 2011


A fun and busy week with the little ones from Omaha. Lots of activity--light saber fights and board games and Melissa and Doug pizzas. Also, JA managed to eat pizza three times during the 4-day visit!

We had a bit of snow play and two trips to Monkey Joe's! The effervescent Sophie came for a visit on Friday, and later we got a chance to cuddle her little brother RR.

Our time together goes too quickly, but we'll be together again for LE's second birthday in March.

25 January 2011


photo by: Angel Chevrestt

BIG SHOES TO FILL: Lisa Frantz (left) and Lydia Marks, a "Sex and the City"
movie-set decorator, show off their prize creation -- a replica
of the dream closet Mr. Big bought Carrie in the first film

 A Long Island, NY man has gifted his wife with a replica of Carrie's closet from Sex and the City 2. He's getting Big's closet soon.

*Heard about this on Wake Up with Taylor on Sirius 108 this morning, and couldn't resist a look.

Right now, one lucky lady now is having the best shoe-gasm of her life. A Long Island businessman has hired Lydia Marks and Lisa Frantz, the set designers behind Sex and the City, to replicate Carrie Bradshaw's closet for his wife. The price tag: $175,000. The New York Post reports that their 400 square-foot guest bedroom has been transformed into the envy-worthy closet holding upwards of 400 pairs of shoes (all designer, naturally), as well as every accompanying accessory under the sun.

So exactly what will 175k get you? The same hand-beveled mirror glass that is featured in the movie, an individual space for every item in the closet (sunglass compartments are specially sized, as are compartments for hair dryers and flat irons), and frosted glass doors with an Art Deco finish. And the project doesn't end there. Next up, Marks and Frantz will replicate Mr. Big's closet for their client's husband. 
via Racked
Better than 'Sex' [New York Post]

24 January 2011


St. Remy de Provence. Anthony Bourdain's 2010 segment aired earlier this evening. CA and I were glued to the tube. Memories. Nostalgia. Longing. Yep, we could be some of those people who decide to buy into the dream.

Our version will more than likely continue to be a string of rentals over a period of years as we find our way through the scenic countryside, into the Medieval villages, amongst the olive groves and vineyards, along the rocky cliffs of the Mediterranean, letting the culture and the lifestyle insinuate itself into our lives and souls.

As Anthony Boudain says at the end of this segment--my paraphrase--it's the small moments, the incidental relationships, and especially the food that draws us to Provence and creates a longing to repeat and return.

23 January 2011


Months ago... I purchased drapery yardage on Etsy for JE's kitchen curtains, and then proceeded to procrastinate. Finally, last week I cut and constructed the first pair without any blips. Today as I measure and begin to cut the second pair, I realize I don't have enough fabric. Ugh-h-h-h. As they say, "Measure twice, cut once." If only.

So, I'm in the process of matching a dye lot with an Etsy vendor and hoping for the best.

21 January 2011



I tried the rainbow cake again today--this time using a 2 Pillsbury white cake mixes, flavored with vanilla and a bit of almond extract. Last time I used every bowl in my sister's kitchen, so this time I worked at streamlining things a bit by dividing the batter into the pans and then stirring in the color. Color didn't saturate, but stuck to the top level of the batter. Still a pretty cake but not up to my standards, so back to six separate bowls.

Loved the cake texture and flavor so much that I wouldn't consider baking the cake from scratch again. And, the cake came out of the pans much easier than the homemade cake. I used shortening to grease the pans, then a layer of parchment, and then a dusting of flour both times.

Still took 2-1/2 lbs. of powdered sugar to frost the cake! And, the weight of the frosted top layers caused the bottom three layers to compress to about 1/2 thickness.

I sent the rainbow cake home with the birthday girl, 'cuz I don't need the temptation.

19 January 2011


This is the coolest thing... These are Copco Bag Caps that I found at Tuesday Morning last week for $2.49 each. Instead of folding and clipping the partially used plastic bags of food in your pantry, you can attach these nifty caps. Inside the colorful part is a grey flange (I think that's what it's called) and you pull the top of the bag through the middle of the grey circle and then slide the colorful cap on top. No more messy powdered sugar bags or floppy bags of rice. You can measure or pour with ease.

This is how my brown sugar works now. Cool, huh? So convenient for my almost daily breakfast-snack:

4 oz. Low-fat Greek Yogurt
1/3 C. Red raspberries (even if they're $4.99/pint)
2 tsp. Brown Sugar


17 January 2011


While we were in Michigan, both JE in Omaha and KF in Bratislava celebrated their birthdays on Saturday, the 15th. Aunt JE's 32 and and KF's 3 . Last year our entire family was together for the celebration.

JA told his mommy (JE) that he'd planned to get her a new dishwasher for her birthday, but she already got one. KF only wanted two guests at her party, but in the end she had Hanka and Lanka's entire family of 5 plus Uncle RK, Aunt EK and Bobbi (Grandma JK).

This happened on Sunday after KF's weekend of celebrating.

16 January 2011


We’ve spent the weekend celebrating JL’s birthday—66. One more 6 and we’re all in trouble!

Friday we had lunch at Food Dance, did some errands and shopping, made taco salad for dinner, and enjoyed some reading time in front of a blazing fire. Saturday the three of us worked out at Bronson Athletic Club, made a return trip to Tuesday Morning for a few more fun kitchen gadgets discovered yesterday, spent the afternoon creating the Rainbow Cake, and had dinner in Schoolcraft at Schnauzers with our cousin BZ, her husband and friend.

Inspiration Cake

Today the cake got iced—approximately 3 lbs. of powdered sugar. Yep! Six layers and five sides requires a ton of icing. Next time we’ll secure the layers with wooden skewers, because we fought gravity the entire time to avoid a Leaning Tower of Pisa.

We vegged this afternoon and then CA and I made steak tacos for dinner.

It’s finally time for JL to open her card and gift, and we cut into the Rainbow Cake. Lovely. It looks like the yellow layer decided to go split-level. Next time we’ll make sure to use a totally flat cake plate. Still, a success and tasty, too.

13 January 2011


I love this cooking gadget. My friend LL gave me my first, and since I've bought several for family and friends.

I use mine for citrus zest and Parmesan cheese. After reading this article in The New York Times, I now know I can use it for smoothing my callouses--if I had any.

12 January 2011


We were served this soup on an United flight from Chicago to Norfolk, VA via D.C. many, many years ago. It's the best bean soup I can remember having, and I used to make it at least once every winter. I want to get back to enjoying this on a cold January night.

[served daily(?) in the U.S. Senate Cafeteria]

1 lb White beans
Ham bone
3 quarts Water
1 cup Potatoes, cooked and mashed
3 onions, finely chopped
4 - 6 stalks Celery, finely chopped
2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup Parsley, chopped

1. Soak white beans overnight in cold water, covered.
2. Drain beans.
3. Place ham bone, beans, and 3 quarts of water in a large soup pot; bring to a boil; and simmer for 2 hours.
4. Stir in mashed potatoes and remaining vegetables, except parsley.
5. Simmer the soup for 1 hour longer, until beans are thoroughly cooked.
6. Remove the ham bone; dice the meat; and return the meat to the soup.
7. Garnish with parsley.

11 January 2011


One good outcome of my Weight Watchers journey is that I'm becoming more creative with my food. I've always loved a great "presentation" but only really focus on it for just me when I'm dieting.

Today when I walked at Health Bridge with LL, she was exclaiming (we both do a lot of exclaiming when we're together) over the sweet cherries she's been enjoying. I actually had my hands on a small bag when I was last grocery shopping, but decided I needed to use up the fresh fruit already in my frig.

The berry bowl pictured above is something I'd forgotten about--I purchased it in Budapest in December 2005. We drove the 2+ hours from Bratislava on dry roads, but the snow began falling just as we walked from our parked car. MK had a clear plastic cover for 7-month old LG's stroller, so she was protected. The memorable part is when MK lifted LG from her stroller and danced and spun throughout the plaza bordering a wine cellar (which DM and CA were exploring) and the shop where I purchased this bowl. MK danced with such delight and love; LG giggled; and I embraced the moment.

After walking about a bit exploring in the snow, we settled in at the Paris Budapest Restaurant in the Sofitel Hotel and spent the afternoon sipping coffee and watching the snow accumulate. At one point CA and I visited the Christmas market and I bought a black fur hat. By the time we were back on the streets, the snow had stopped and the city was bright with sparkling white lights.

We finished our visit with a Mexican dinner at Iguana Bar and Grill, where DM consumed a noteworthy Whoop Ass Burrito. At that time, especially, Mexican food was hard to find in Central Europe, so this meal was the perfect capper to our snowy winter day in Budapest.

10 January 2011


One of my very favorite grocery items in France was the shelf-stabilized creamer. We require half-n-half in our coffee; the real stuff, not fat-free. Sometimes we run out at home... 2% milk does not fill the bill. We actually digress to powdered creamer rather than milk. Yep. No comparison to the real stuff, but not as thinning as milk.

That being said, we didn't really need shelf-stabilized creamer in France because we were in the grocery store most days, but we love the idea of an endless supply of creamer just waiting for us on our pantry shelves. We briefly considered bringing a supply home. LFW was tempted, too. But, luggage weight restrictions nixed the idea.

Since being home I've not lost my interest in the product, but hadn't researched its availability until this morning. There seems to be limited availability, and some processors such as Organic Valley have suspended production for a time--I think Americans just haven't wrapped their minds around shelf-stable milk products.

I'm guessing it's conditioning--we've grown up believing milk products spoil quickly if not refrigerated, even with the huge advances in sterilized packaging. Our grandchildren in Central Europe have grown up believing that's the only way milk comes--it's stacked high in the grocery stores and in cartons of 12 or 18 in their pantry.

Milk distributors have not marketed shelf-stable milk products in the U.S., at least not in Illinois or Wisconsin. A simple search of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board site reveals not one hit for shelf-stable milk. Nor do I get a hit on the Real California Milk site. Obviously, the powers-that-be in the world of milk have a bias toward not promoting shelf-stable milk products. Follow the money...