Rome at Dusk

Pantheon at dusk.

Pantheon at dusk.

Italy On My Mind

On our first night in Rome, we visited the Pantheon, an Ancient Roman temple “of all the gods.” I was awed and humbled by the Corinthian columns, marble floor, tomb of Raphael, enormous coffered ceiling and Occulus.

Gazing up and into the eye-like opening to the sky was other-wordly, mystical, magical. It felt like I was being watched, maybe even seen. My writer’s mind entered another dimension where characters whisper in my ear and scenes play in my imagination.

The concrete domed ceiling is a wonder unto itself. My guide book says “the dome was cast by pouring concrete mixed with tufa and pumice over a temporary framework” and the ceiling’s weight is reduced by the hollow decorative coffers.

Moody blues in a sunset sky.

Moody blues in a sunset sky.

Looking down on the Spanish Steps.

Climbing down the Spanish Steps.

Next stop was the Spanish Steps, a “combination of straight sections, curves and terraces.” If they’re this crowded in February, imagine how many people would hang out in the summer!

We had already spent some time in Piazza di Spagna, but in an “umm, we may be lost” way.

We took taxi from the airport to the city, and when our driver dropped us off in the middle of an intersection saying our hotel was right down the street, we said, “Sounds good.”  BUT, we walked up and down and couldn’t find our hotel. Picture extremely narrow, cobblestone streets packed with people and toy-sized cars. There we were, wheeling our luggage behind us, and getting worried (slightly panicky) when the street ended at address #50 and our hotel’s address was #93.

Yes, we asked shop owners and passersby if they knew the hotel (They didn’t.) and we couldn’t call the hotel without an international phone plan. So, we parked ourselves in Piazza di Spagna and tried to make sense of our map.

Hubby found a policeman and guess what? We were on the correct street! Unlike in the United States, where odd numbered addresses are on one side of the street and even numbers on the other, in Italy, numbers go up one side of the street and continue on the other side! If we had just looked on the other side of the street, we would have figured it out!

Horse-drawn carriages in

Horse-drawn carriages in Piazza di Spagna.

Hubby and Daughter.

Hubby and Daughter outside of our hotel.

Have you been to the Pantheon? What did you think? I’d love to hear from  you!

Source: Rome, DK Eyewitness Travel

Still Chilly Chili

Chili in the crock pot.

Chili in the crock pot.

It might be Spring, but you’d never know it.

Yesterday in Alaska–umm, I mean New Jersey, schools were dismissed early, car windows needed scraping and driveways needed shoveling.  Backing out of my San Francisco-like driveway required expert driving (thanks, Hubby) so that the car wasn’t totaled a few feet from the front door!

Our Arctic Zone weather requires comfort food, and I consider Chili a warmer upper.  Chili also reminds me of skiing, and since I’m the Queen-of-Connecting-the-Dots (see post Toasty Tushy Melts the I.C.E. for more dot connecting), I’ll tell you why.

When you’ve been skiing and you’re wondering if frostbite has set in, Chili is practically required medicine.  I’ve been to ski lodges where plugged in electric cords lead from walls to crock pots clustered on tables.  At lunchtime, simmering chili is ready to serve.  (Skiers are such trusting people!)

We recently went skiing and I decided it would be great if dinner was waiting for us when we came home.  Enjoy this recipe.  Hon, I hope, it warms you from the inside out.

A ski day is a good day!

A ski day is a good day!

I made extra a froze some for another time.

I made extra a froze some for another time.

Chili

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground beef

1 green pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 (16-ounce) cans tomatoes (I used chopped tomatoes)

1 cup water

2 Tablespoons chili powder (depending on how spicy you like your chili, I used 1 Tbl)

1 teaspoon salt and dash of pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Optional:  2 (16-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained; other spices, such as paprika, dried mustard or whatever you want to sprinkle in

Directions:

1.  In a hot frying pan, brown ground beef.

2.  Place browned ground beef and remaining ingredients in crock pot, stirring to blend.

3.  Cover and cook on low setting 4 to 6 hours.

Don’t have a crock pot?  Don’t worry.

1.  In a frying pan, saute ground beef and onions until soft.

2.  Drain off fat.

3.  Transfer mixture to a large pot.

4.  Add remaining ingredients.

5.  Bring to a boil, them simmer, covered, 45 minutes.

Yield:  4-6 servings

Cancun Chaos

Are we headed to Cancun on Spring Break or a Girl Band named "Big Hair & Denim"?

College Girls.  Are we headed to Cancun on Spring Break or a Girl Band named “Big Hair & Denim”?

 Who can forget Spring Break?

My son and his college buddies recently returned from Spring Break in Cancun, a tourist destination known for beautiful beaches, turquoise water, and American students having a lot of fun.

When I told my college girl friends where my son vacationed, they all remembered our Spring Break in Cancun.  How could we forget it, especially our last night there?

Here’s the lowdown on the slowdown that  caused Cancun Chaos! 

Who:  Approximately 200 college students.

What:  Departure of a charter flight back to the U.S.

Where:  Cancun International Airport.

When:  8 pm (late ’80’s–could you tell from the hair?)

Why:  Good Question!

What Happened?

Shortly after arriving at Cancun International Airport, the shops brought down their gates.  Then, some airport employees left.  Then THEY ALL left!  Two hundred college kids were like, “What just happened?” and “Where’s our plane?” and “Holy Moly–we’re locked in!”

Apparently, our flight was cancelled or postponed or whatever!  So, the airline workers went home.  Guess what we didn’t have?  Cell phones (gasp!).  I remember being tired and angry.  If we’d known the flight was cancelled, we could have either stayed at our hotel another night or hung out with my childhood friend, who also happened to be in Cancun.  Ugh!

We had no way of letting anyone know we were stuck and no way of finding out when we might leave.  It was chaos!  Those who had bought Mexican blankets were in high demand.  The rest of us climbed on top of X-Ray scanner belts, pretended to be airline attendants and, basically, got delirious wondering if and when a plane would arrive.

And then?

Around 8 am, airline workers unlocked the airport doors.  They weren’t in a hurry and they didn’t apologize.  What did they care if a couple hundred American students had practically eaten their sombreros in desparation?

At 9 am, a charter plane arrived. What I don’t remember is if we all cheered upon takeoff or immediately fell asleep!

Open air market.

Open air market.

Hair and high-cut swimsuit--so Eighties!

Lots of hair and high-cut swimsuit–so Eighties!

Tanning in turquoise water.

Tanning in turquoise water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shout out to my childhood friend

Shout out to my childhood friend.

Hanging out on the X-Ray belt and, yes, crawling, through the machine.

Hanging out on the X-Ray scanner belt and, yes, crawling, through the machine at Cancun International Airport.

 Hon, do you have a ridiculous travel experience?  I’d love to hear about it.

Venice View

Laundry hanging to dry.

Laundry hanging to dry.

I admit it. I was camera crazy in Venice!

Something catches my eye and I have the urge to capture it. It’s always interesting to see if the photo I take highlights the element that drew me to the scene. I took these pics FROM the water during our Venetian Rowing Lesson (yay, Row Venice!).  I hope you think they are bellisima.

 Grazie!

The juxtaposition of the red flower boxes and building with the church behind set against a blue sky was.

The juxtaposition of red flower boxes and building with a church behind set against a blue sky said Italy to me.

Gondolier on his cell phone.

Gondolier on his cell phone.

This ambulance was in a hurry so we had to navigate our boat out of the way.

This ambulance was in a hurry so we had to navigate our batelina out of the way.

 

 

 

 

 

Venice buildings are so old!

Venice buildings are so old.

Seagulls are everywhere!

Seagulls are everywhere.

 

 

 

 

Murano glass.

Murano glass.

Happy colors.

Happy colors.

 

 

 

 

 

Eating outdoors even in February.

Eating outside even in February.

One point perspective.

One point perspective.

Canal, church and reflection framed by a bridge's arch.

Canal, church and reflection framed by a bridge’s arch.

 

 

 

 

 

Row, Row, Row Your Boat (in Venice)

 

Gondolas in Venice, Italy

Gondolas in Venice, Italy

Buon Giorno!

I recently traveled to Italy to visit one of my daughters (aka. Liquid Copper and Baby A of the triplets) who is studying abroad this semester. The food was fabulous, the art amazing, and meeting people from around the world was wonderful . Hon, you’re the recipient of the many photos I took.

Hubby said I was “dawdling,” but I disagree!

Bmore Energy’s tag line “I find the extraordinary in the ordinary” isn’t for nothing! In addition to our fascinating surroundings, there was so much to see. I wanted to soak in the shop windows, architecture, paintings and sculptures. I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me.

In Venice we could take a gondola ride, but wouldn’t it be more fun to learn how to row? We booked a Venetian Rowing Lesson with Row Venice, where we didn’t actually row a gondola but, rather, a batelina. Row Venice owns 3 out of the 6 of these hand-crafted, shrimp-tailed boats in existence today.

Learning how to row turned out to be a memorable experience!

________________________________________________________________________

Our instructor, Nan, showing Hubby how to hold the oar.

Our instructor, Nan, showing Hubby how to hold the oar.

Hubby gets the hang of it.

Hubby gets the hang of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

________________________________________________________________________

The oars are heavy!

The oar is heavy!

Stylin'!

Stylin’!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_______________________________________________________________________

Rowing is MUCH HARDER than it looks!

Rowing is MUCH HARDER than it looks!

Gliding along the canal.

Gliding along the canal.

 

 

 

 

 

_________________________________________________________________________

Concentrating.

Concentrating.

On the lagoon.

On the lagoon.

________________________________________________________________________

Have you been to Venice?  Are you a “Get-Me-On-A-Gondola” or a “Row-Like-A-Venetian” person?  

(I won’t judge, I promise!)

Classic Black-and-White Cookies

Classic Black-and-White Cookies

Classic Black-and-White Cookies

Cake or cookie?  Or both?

Black-and-White Cookies are one of my family’s favorites. Whether they’re bigger than your head or bite size, everyone ooh’s and ahh’s at the sight of icing dripping over the edges of the part cake/part cookie dessert. They weren’t hard to make, but they took time and were messy. So, put on an apron, clear the counter, and get ready for some serious Cookie Therapy.

These cookies were so delicious, everyone in my house said, “Just one more.”  This recipe yields a lot of cookies so I froze a bunch. Even defrosted, they were yummy. You know I love a party.  How fun would it be to make these using food coloring on the white icing to match a color scheme?

Happy baking, hon!

Measure ingredients.

Measure ingredients.

Use a paddle attachment to mix ingredients.

Use a paddle attachment to beat until light and fluffy.

 

 

 

 

 

_________________________________________________________________________

Drop batter onto cookie sheet.

Form tablespoon size dough balls.

Bake until

Bake until edges begin to brown.

 

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Spread white icing on 1/2 of cookies.

Spread white icing on half of each cookie.

Spread chocolate icing on other half of cookies.

Spread chocolate icing on the other half of each cookie.

 

 

 

 

 

Let icing set

Let icing set.

Classic Black-and-White Cookies

Ingredients:

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter (I used margarine*), at room temperature

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup whole milk (I used almond milk*)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoons baking powder

Icing Ingredients

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/3 cup boiling water

1ounce bittersweet chocolate, melted

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2.  Place flours and baking powder in a bowl and mix well.

3.  Place butter (or margarine) and granulated sugar in a mixer fitted with a paddle and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions. Add milk (or almond milk) and vanilla and beat well. With mixer running, gradually add dry flour ingredients to butter mixture, beat until completely mixed

4.  Form the dough into tablespoon-size balls and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Transfer to oven and bake until edges of the cookies just begin to brown, about 25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and repeat with remaining dough.

5.  Icing:  Place the confectioners’ sugar in a large mixing bowl and add water, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is spreadable but still thick.  Transfer half the icing to another mixing bowl and stir in the melted chocolate. Set aside to cool.

6.  Spread half of one side of the cookies with the white icing and the other half with the chocolate icing. Set aside until the icing hardens.

Yield:  about 6 dozen cookies

Substituting margarine for butter and almond milk for milk made these cookies dairy-free.

Source:  Family Circle magazine

Toasty Tushy Melts the I.C.E.

Monotone.

Monotone.

Crystal Evergreen.

Crystal Evergreen.

Hubby showed me how to bake my buns, cook my caboose or, in other words, toast my tushy!

Lest you think this is an X-rated post, I assure you it’s G-rated. (sorry to disappoint) Hon, forget increased horse power or better mileage. I’ve figured out the most exciting innovation in the automobile industry.  I’m—umm–glowing about a modern way to bear the Arctic Zone.

If you think New Jersey isn’t an Arctic-Zone-kind-of-state, think again.  Just witness temps hovering below freezing and hunched shoulders requiring frequent trips to the chiropracter.  Crampons attached to boots would aid climbing my neighborhood’s steep, ice-covered driveways, fingers turn yellow due to loss of circulation–and that’s inside–and even my dog Lucy has decided that hibernation is preferable to doing her job (ie. barking like a maniac at mail and delivery trucks).  In fact, she won’t even venture outside to do her business UNLESS I ESCORT HER!

What does I.C.E. stand for and am I going anywhere with this?

(Insight into the mind of a “high energy” person:  as anyone who’s had a conversation with me can attest, points may seem random, but then they all connect in a perfectly logical way. Oh, and I even use parenthesis when I speak.)

I.C.E. is my newest title.  I’m an ICE CHOPPER EXTRAORDINAIRE!  You can find me outside several times a day, chopping ice as if it was the incarnation of all my frustrations (Yikes!) There’s a method to my madness.  (“You will crack under the weight of my power!”  Mwahaha!)

How do you melt the frozen heart of an I.C.E.?  You toast tushies, of course!  (Another way to melt an icicle heart?  A trip to a tropical island.  But, I digress.)

Three tried and true I.C.E. Melting Methods:

1.  Laying on a dog’s haunches. Lucy’s furry fanny is so warm, I used it as a pillow and fell asleep. For about 45 minutes. (She didn’t seem to mind.)

2.  Heating pad for the posterier. And for a sore back due to chopping ice.

3.  And now…drum roll, please… what’s the best way to toast a tushy? First, start the engine and second,  turn on the Seat Warmer! Ahhh! That’s what I’ll be doing until Spring arrives. You know what I found out? If you heat your seat, the warmth spreads upwards and even reaches extremeties such as fingers, ears and eyelashes. (I know, I know. Eyelashes aren’t extremeties, but when eyes tear up from the cold, they sure feel that way.)

Do you live in an Arctic Zone?  How do you stay warm?  I’m (ice) fishing for more ideas!

Moon Surface on Earth. (Frozen NJ River.)

Moon Surface on Earth. (Frozen NJ River.)

Fluffy tail, warm fur!

Fluffy tail, warm fur!

Ice Study--Dog Bowl.

Ice Study–Dog Bowl.

Ice Study--Garden Hose.

Ice Study–Garden Hose.

 

 

 

 

"I'd rather stay inside."

“I’d rather stay inside.”

And Just Because...Tush-shaped toast.

And Just Because…tush-shaped toast.

Motto Mom In the Moment! (Snow Day Shenanigans–a Short Video)

Liquid Copper, Curly Girl and Me.

Liquid Copper, Curly Girl and Me.

“I have this theory that people make an implicit decision as to whether they’re going to stay young and curious and interesting and interested, or whether they’re just going to let themselves age.”*

Call me “Motto Mom.”  Maybe mottos would roll off my tongue even if I didn’t have triplets, but mottos have allowed me to live in the moment.  One of them is, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” If it’s a snow day, and there is NO WAY I’m going to get any work done, I allow myself to enjoy the found time.  Guess where you’ll find my kids, their friends and me?  Outside playing because 1) living on a hill makes us the “Sledding House,” 2) you’re never to old to play, and 3) there’s always hot chocolate and marshmallows afterward!

You know what else I’m good for, besides serving snacks and hot drinks?  Videoing the shenanigans.  Except when I decide to video the “sled train” head on!  Ahhh!

Enjoy the 1 minute video of being in the moment!

Click link to watch video:  Snow Day/Blizzard 2015 

 Related Videos:  

December Defined 

Snow Puppy

* Quote by Mitch Rothschild, Chief Executive of Vitals, a website that connects patients and doctors, from a 1/25/15 article in The New York Times.

**music on video, Paul Hardcastle-The Jazzmasters “See You in July”

Chunky Knit Scarves, Cowl Within a Cowl

Bon Voyage!

Bon Voyage!

Interlocking Infinity Scarf.  Stay warm in Florence.

Cowl Within a Cowl, Slip Stitch Honeycomb Pattern. Stay warm in Florence!

Another way to wear this scarf.

Another way to wear this scarf.  

Sample + Sale = Inspiration!

My knitting store displayed a Cowl Within a Cowl and I was itching to knit something with the rich garnet and grey yarn I’d found marked down. I thought my college-aged daughters would love these interlocking infinity scarves.

Above, “Liquid Copper” (aka Baby A of the triplets) and, below, “Curly Girl” (aka Baby C) model their scarves, knit with the same yarn but made up of different stitches. There’s nothing like a deadline to complete a project.  I finished Curly Girl’s scarf right before the new semester at Pratt Institute started. Liquid Copper is in Florence for this semester (lucky girl!). I finished her scarf a couple of days before she left.  Whew!

Happy knitting, hon!

Interlocking Infinity Scarf.  Stay warm in Brooklyn.

Cowl Within a Cowl, Seed Stitch Pattern.  Stay warm in Brooklyn!

Cowl Within a Cowl, Honeycomb Pattern (as worn by Liquid Copper)

Finished Measurements

22 inches in length by 12 inches wide

Yarn

2 skeins of 100% Superwash Merino wool, approximately 200 yards each

Needles

1 US size 8 (5 mm) 26″ circular needle

Gauge

5 sts = 1 inch (10 cm) in honeycomb pattern

Notions

–stitch markers to mark beginning of round (I used stitch markers to keep track of overall sts)

–1 yarn needle for weaving in ends

Slip Stitch Honeycomb Pattern:

Note:  When working rounds 2 and 4, slip as if to purl and keep yarn in front.

Round 1:  Knit.

Round 2:  *Purl 1, Slip 1 wyif” repeat across round.

Round 3:  Knit.

Round 4:  *Slip 1 wyif, Purl 1* repeat across round.

Directions:

Cast on 110 stitches.  Being careful not to twist, place marker and join for working in the round.  Knit 4 rounds.

Repeat the 4 rounds of Slip Stitch Honeycomb Pattern until work measures approximately 11,” making sure you have enough yarn for the following:  Knit 3 rounds and bind off loosely.

Second Cowl:

Cast on 110 stitches as for first cowl, looping needle through first cowl.  Join, being careful not to twist stitches. Follow pattern for first cowl.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Cowl Within a Cowl, Seed Stitch Pattern (as worn by Curly Girl)

Same yarn, needle and notions as above.

Finished Measurements

24 inches in length by 8 1/2 inches wide, gauge is not important

First Cowl Directions

Cast on 101 stitches and join, being careful not to twist the stitches.

Row 1:  *K 1, P1* Repeat from * — * to end of round.

Row 2:  *P1, K1*, Repeat from * — * to end of round.

These 2 rows form the pattern.  Continue until desired length.  Bind off loosely in patterm.

Second Cowl:

Cast on 101 stitches as for first cowl, looping needle through first cowl.  Join, being careful not to twist the stitches.  Follow pattern for first cowl.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Sources:

Slip Stitch Honeycomb Pattern on Ravelry by Antonia Shankland

Yarn Shop–The Stitching Bee–Shout out to the yarn shop in Chatham, New Jersey 

Lucy

Curly Girl and Lucy.

lucy

Hmm, maybe Lucy needs a scarf, too?  She looks good in red!

Sweet Cheeks Baby Blanket

keep-calm-and-carry-yarn-141

Sweet Cheeks!

Sweet Cheeks!

What a pretty baby girl.

What a pretty baby girl.

Knit with love.

Knit with love.

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Cheeks, indeed!

Sweet Cheeks, indeed!

Baby Blanket.

Baby Blanket.

Hon, have you ever heard me say I was born in the wrong century? If this was the 19th century (hmm, my house was built in 1882), then my interest in knitting and needlepoint (and a little sewing) wouldn’t seem so old-fashioned. When one of my college daughters needlepoints at school, her friends call her “Bubbe.”  But, if I think about the–ahem–common thread that ties these interests together, it’s really quite modern.  I love to create something out of nothing.  Which relates to my passion for writing.  See? It all ties together!

A new baby + restless hands + scrumptiously soft yarn = a baby blanket where every stitch radiates love.

Baby Blanket

Finished Size:  36″ x 45″ (91.5 cm x 114.5cm)

Materials:

Medium Weight Yarn 36 ounces, 2,100 yards (1,020 grams, 1.920 meters)

29″ (73.5 cm) Circular knitting needle, size 10 1/2 (6.5 mm) or size needed for gauge

Afghan is worked holding two strands of yarn together.

Gauge:

In pattern, 15 sts and 21 rows = 4 1/2″ (11.5 cm)

Pattern:

Cast on 113 sts.

Row 1-5:  Knit across.

Row 6:  (Right side): K7,P3, (K3, P3) across to last 7 sts, K7.

Row 7:  K4, P3, (K3, P3) across to last 4 sts, K4.

Row 8:  K7, P3 (K3, P3) across to last 7 sts, K7.

Row 9 and 10:  K4, P3, (K3, P3) across to last 4 sts, K4.

Row 11:  K7, P3, (K3, P3) across to last 7 sts, K7.

Row 12:  K4, P3, (K3, P3) across to last 4 sts, K4.

Rows 13 and 14:  K7, P3, (K3, P3) across to last 7 sts, K7.

Repeat Rows 7-14 for pattern until blanket measures approximately 44″ (112 cm) from cast on edge, ending by working Row 9 or Row 13.

Last 5 Rows:  Knit across.

Bind off all sts in knit.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

Sources:

Knitting Book–Leisure Arts “Our Best Baby Afghans, Book 2″

Pattern by Carole Prior

Yarn Shop–The Stitching Bee–Shout out to the yarn shop in Chatham, New Jersey

Happy knitting, Hon!