Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Darlos Reunion at Loon Lake and Reconnecting with Old Friends

Loon Lake is the fourth lake that I visited during my tour of the Finger Lakes Region of Western New York State.
It is a small quaint lake full of fish and seasonal Loons. Nasher lives there. Her little house is like something out of a shabby chic magazine. She is a collector of all things old and unusual that she fixes up or just leaves as is and sometimes sells at an antique outlet where she rents a space. There are also road trips to huge antique fairs where she sets up her "mini shop".

It is always an adventure to visit her. I look forward to the latest additions and remodels to the small space.  She heats her cottage with a wood burning stove. There is no central heat and we are talking about her living in the "snow belt" of western NY!  Nasher is a very hearty woman, for sure.

Two years ago she and her friend, Anita, drove across the United States in an old truck towing a Shasta camper that they named "The Darlo".  They became known as "The Darlos" to everyone who they crossed paths with. Their ongoing blog was called " Cheap Thrills Across America". What a good read that was!  Their itinerary included my little town of Cayucos, CA. We had so darn much fun. They came when I was in a very fragile state. It was two months after Steve passed away. Fortunately we had alot more laughs than tears. Before they left we looked around for, to me, "junk" to them treasures. I was happy to donate an old rusty bistro set to the cause, plus, they helped clean up our beach of all sorts of flotsam that they carefully packed up and carried all the way back to the East Coast.

I was looking forward to the picnic she had planned with Anita and the "sistas" IE former Nuns that I visited when I went to St. Augustine, FL in 2012.  The Trail Blazer headed out to Loon Lake, a route I was very familiar with and only missed one turn due to a new misleading sign that actually was a dead end road. I think the "Laf-A-Lot Lounge" placed it there to draw people in as they are at the end of that road. Apparently plenty of peeps are pissed off at the owner for gouging the residents who used to be able to launch their boats next to the bar for free. Now he charges $100. or so for the privilege AND he is the only launch on that side of the lake.  Nasher has a canoe so isn't held hostage by him.

As I pulled up to the "Summer House" as she named her cottage, I had a little panic attack wondering how I was going to maneuver the slight slope and rocky path down to her house.  The knee/leg was killing me.  Somehow I carefully made it down. Soon I was seated in a lawn chair with a nice cool glass of local wine in my hand admiring the lake and Nashers beauty garden of flowers and various smokeable "herbs". The ladies arrived with bowls of good smelling food, eggy pasta salad, warm bacony German potato salad, rhubarb pie as well as a cooler of adult beverages.
In my honor Nasher grilled some hens (my nickname wayyy back when, was "Hen"- sort of a long story). Sweet New York corn on the cob filled out our picnic.
Perfect picnic plate with vintage serving pieces

this rhubarb pie was killer good

We laughed about our St. Patrick's day week spent in St. Augustine FL in 2012 and made tentative plans to reunite in 2014.  The Sistas rent the same house every year for 3 months or so and the Cheap Thrills Across America blog chronicled that party.
the Sistas, Barb, Julia and Carol in back with Darlos, Nasher and Anita in the front

I was staying overnight, my fav thing as the guest room is actually Nasher's porch and overlooks Loon Lake and her beauty garden.
Sunporch guest room

The next morning  she was up and at it making delicious French toast with bread from a local bakery and fresh berries.

The plan was to go out to Conesus Lake and visit one of our girlfriends. This would be my fifth and last lake visit.
It was hard to leave such a tranquil place and one of my favorite lakes but we were on a mission.

Shelley Lavner was a friend of ours from Tiny's Bengal Inn days and The Invictas rock band. We used to dance up a storm, drink lots of beers and laugh ourselves silly. I am sure we were silly anyway at 18 yrs old.  When the Invictas were on a break she would coerce guys into giving her dimes for the jukebox and would then play the same song over and over, "Baby Love" by the Supremes. Pretty soon they got wise to it and no dimes were dispensed. Our birthdays were a few days apart in September so we were Virgo soul sisters.  Shelley loved Florida!! She would go down there and bake in the sun, proud to show us the tan between her toes. We lost track of each other when I moved to California but Nasher lived near her and kept in touch. They both raised their kids together and even though I probably saw her twice in the past 40 years, it was like the old days.  We can laugh about our lost loves and the assholes in our lives.  She is still with the same guy, Fritz, who I only just met but used to hear alot about.  They finally got married a few years ago. I love it!!
We reconnected on Facebook ( of course) and I vowed to visit when I was in town.
Nasher and I pulled up to her beauty farmhouse that overlooks Conesus Lake and I hobbled up to the door.  Screeches and peels of laughter ensued. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. She has a little room that has all of this old memorabilia from the 60's. So cool. 
It turns out she and Fritz have an RV and spend 3 months in Key West each winter.  Some of their Key West friends from Ohio were visiting at the same time so all of us talked about Key West, one of my fav places in Florida. Before you knew it I promised to go down there and Nasher promised to meet up too this winter. That will be a story to tell I can assure you.
Pictures were snapped with hugs all around and we drove away.
Shelley and Fritz's house

Oh yeah girlfriends!

That was my last Finger Lake for this visit.  I was ready to head home. My brother Bob took me out for a fabulous lobster dinner at his fav restaurant "black and blue" in Rochester. The perfect end of a very fun vacation.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ithaca is "Gorges"

When Nasher and I finally found our way back to my brother's house after the Invictas concert, ( we got a little lost), we cracked a bottle of wine and settled into reminiscing and catching on up on our present lives.  Pierre the cat was hangin with us but managed to escape into the night.  The plan was that I would go visit my cousin in Ithaca, NY on Cayuga Lake and be back in time for a picnic on Loon Lake where Nasher lives. I was originally going to go on Friday and return on Saturday but the other girls we were going to get together with wanted to do something Saturday night so I headed out the next day, Thursday, for Michelle's.  Should have stuck to my original plan.  The girls changed the picnic to Sunday.  No problem.  Off I went in the trusty Trailblazer to Ithaca. I was a pro at getting out of Penfield now but not a pro at driving on the New York Thruway which is full of semi trucks that are allowed to travel at high speeds and in any lane they want to. Out here there are speed limits and they cannot travel in the fast lanes. I was sure happy when my exit came up.
Ithaca is a college town, Ithaca State College and Cornell University being the colleges. Michelle's husband Ian is a professor at Ithaca State. He and their son, little Crosby,were in Cape Cod so it was going to be a girls night with 2 yr. old Joanie, Michelle and I.  Ian and Michelle bought a very cool old house and have been restoring it bit by bit. It has three floors. Typical "back East" house.  My grandparents had one similar but the third floor was an attic with all sorts of treasures in it.  The children's bedrooms are up on the third floor in Mich's house. What a great place to grow up. Ithaca is known for it's Gorges and beauty parks.  It is on Cayuga Lake, another of the Finger Lakes. It looked like rain was moving in and it did. Little Joanie was having nothing to do with this stranger intruding into her home. One can't be too careful at 2 years old.

We headed to downtown Ithaca for dinner and a walk around. The shops sell "Ithaca is Gorges" everything, the usual bumper stickers, tee shirts, hats , scarves, underwear and more. Drizzly rain and thunder prevailed but we didn't care.
When I was in college in Rochester, NY I visited a couple of my friends who were attending Ithaca State. The town was vaguely familiar even though it is undergoing a renovation.  The restaurant Mich chose was called "Just A Taste Wine and Tapas Bar". Excellent choice. We stuck with the Tapas part of the menu.  Cute Joanie had her little treats from the "Mom Bag" and seemed to be having a good time. Everything was delicious! College towns tend to have reasonably priced menus too. A glass of excellent Grenache was only $4.50 compared to $9. out here. We grazed on five different little plates, which was one plate too many. Here is the current menu. We had the Tortilla Espanola and Spicy Shrimp saute which are still on the menu as well as fabo deep fried ricotta stuffed squash blossoms with amazing green-herb-poblano chile sauce. Wow! Garlic braised greens and a house made smoked Polish sausage just about finished us off.
By the time we got home a huge thunder and lightening storm was raging.  We couldn't hear much of it once inside her cozy house sipping another glass of wine.

The next day was raining and gray.  She said we could go to visit one of her favorite gorges. I was up for that!
It seemed a little muddy out and I definitely did not have good hiking shoes on, actually no hiking shoes on, just Croc slipons. Mistake.
The first park looked like a disaster area. It reminded me of the mudslides after El Nino storms out here. Huge piles of mud and debris. Where did this stuff come from? Well the storm the previous night was a doozie. We were turned away from the entrance of the park as clean up crews were scooping up mud. They told us the Gorge was closed and would be for weeks due to the slides.  "Let's go to Buttermilk Falls" said Mich." It is not as spectacular but still pretty". Okay lets.
Cayuga Lake is a glacier lake formed 15,000 years ago when mile high glaciers covered this area.  Here is a good website to read up on it's history and check out pics. When we pulled into the Buttermilk Falls parking lot we were allowed to pass for free because Friday is "Senior's Day". Woo hoo. I had to show my ID though just in case I was only 30 yrs old trying to pass for over 60. The rain had turned into a drizzle and off we went. The falls did not seem at all timid. They were roaring down the cliff and looked more like Niagra Falls.  Signs were posted prohibiting swimming. No kidding! The little wooden bridge was barely passable as the water was so high. The buttermilk colored falls were spectacular and I took a few pictures.

Buttermilk Falls and the slippery steps

We started up the natural shale steps with a few other brave souls.  I was trying to be very careful on the muddy steps.  Sometimes I tend to trip but for some reason I haven't tripped once in the past two years since Steve passed away. Maybe he has been the angel on my shoulder. This day was the day after the second year anniversary of his passing.  Did my warranty expire? The angel must have been tending to someone else because I took a bad, bad fall. One of my Crocs caught on the edge of the shale step and stuck there, twisting my knee and subsequently breaking one of my toes. I went down straight into the gravel and mud.  Oh my! My little Joanie was horrified to see me covered in mud but I think I saw a little smile when Mich and I started to laugh.  That was the end of that hike.  I regret that she didn't take a pic of me in that state. An elderly couple was just beginning to take the hike up the steps when they took one look at me and turned around. Good thinking.

My second and third cousins

Back at the house I took a shower and stashed my muddy clothes. I knew something was terribly wrong because I really could barely walk. My sweet cousin was so worried about me and felt like it was her fault but it was not. One should not attempt to hike without proper shoes on. She made me a lovely lunch of homemade hummus ( yum) with veges and sliced chicken.  I decided to leave soon after so I could get back to my brother's house.  Luckily it was my left leg so driving was no problem and it actually gave me a chance to rest the leg.

Safely back at Bob's house I dragged out some ice and sat with my leg elevated icing the knee. He came in and immediately poured me a glass of wine.  We decided to order pizza for a crowd as it was Friday night and surely everyone would show up sooner or later.   The next day, Saturday, I told Bob I had to go to Urgent Care. My leg was so swollen and the toe was black and blue. Off we went.  They took xrays and said I had a badly sprained knee and broken  toe, gave me the names of several Orthopedic Drs., wrapped my leg in an ACE bandage and put one of those shoes with the velcro closures on. The only trouble was that the broken toe hung over the edge. I ditched that and opted for my nice flat sturdy flip flops.  Since I was flying back to California on the following Wednesday it was pointless to try to make an appointment with a Dr. I got a good hobble on and managed to get around okay. 

 This went on for a month. Finally I went to my Dr. and she ordered an MRI. Much to my surprise I had fractured my lower leg bone and strained all of the tendons and whatever else holds your knee together. As usual they had to point out the fact that I have arthritis in that knee which I already knew but also added that I might need a knee replacement in a few years. Now, feeling really bad, I tried to get into an Orthopedic Doc. When the receptionist said it would be 1 1/2 weeks and I said "but I have a fractured leg"! She responded with "well you have been walking around on it for 4 weeks and it only takes about 6-8 to heal". Now THAT made me feel better.  Anyway the good news was it was healing properly and all I needed was a cane, rest and for God's sake do not wear flip flops until it is healed. okay.....

Someday I will get to those "Gorges" and Joanie will be chattering away.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Doin the "Hump" baby!

I was so excited when I got an email saying that my favorite band from the 1960s, "The Invictas" were going to be playing in Rochester when I was visiting. My friends and I were total groupies. Sure we loved the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals and most of the British invasion groups but we couldn't go see those bands 7 days a week if we wanted to.  The four founding members of The Invictas were college guys from RIT in Rochester, NY.  They drove around in a black hearse and still do but it has been embellished and souped up.

 One of the original "garage" bands, The Invictas with three of the original guys got back together in 2005.  They live in different states but still manage to travel and play gigs on the East Coast and in Rochester.  When we were following them they played at an old Inn near Lake Ontario called "Tiny's Bengel Inn".  We would beg anyone who had a car to take us there. My Dad used to drive some of my girlfriends and I there on occasion. So cool. The place was packed with lines waiting to get in. Tiny, a huge man, loved us and always let us go to the head of the line. We wouldn't miss "hump day" Wednesdays that brought us closer to Friday when the  real party began. I don't know exactly when it started but somehow a dance became popular that emulated, well, humping!  Herb Gross, Jimmy Kohler, Dave Hickey and Mark Blumenfeld soon recorded a song aptly named "The Hump". It was a huge hit and number one in many East Coast cities. Someone coined the term "Invictamania" when referring to that era.
circa 1960's The Invictas
 When the band traveled they were actually forbidden to play their hit song in some cities.  Of course they ignored those warnings and ended up being "Banned in Newark" and I think other places.  It wasn't uncommon for the "establishment" to ban songs sang by current rock bands. That made them all the more popular. 
I connected with them on facebook and "Liked" them which is how I got the email about the concert.  I rallied a few of my girlfriends and we agreed to meet there. It was Anne's birthday, however, and after the yellow jacket incident..(turns out there was a huge hive in her wall that the exterminator took care of) , she bowed out.  Her husband had recent surgery and wasn't feeling well either. Okay one down.  Nasher was still on. We were hoping Shelley could make it. 

Sandy Nash (Nasher) came over to my brother Bob's house to pick me up.  They hadn't seen each other in awhile and one thing led to another with Bob pulling out his harmonica to blow a few notes into. He had a band during the mid 70's. It was called "Wale/Wail" depending on the year as it changed names. He can still play a mean harmonica too!!  That link shows pictures of Bob as lead singer. He was the skinny one with long hair and wild blue eyes. Wild days. 
Brother Bob playing his harmonica

Off we went in the direction of  Lake Ontario for the "Concerts at the Shore" sponsored by Wegman's grocery stores. These are free concerts and draw large crowds. The Invictas are a very big draw as all of us "boomers"  like to relive our youth. When we got there it looked like it had rained but the skies were clearing up. Everyone stuck it out.  First thing we see is the hearse in all of it's reincarnated glory.
Very cool hot rod hearse!

 The music was pouring out of the gazebo and the crowd was rockin. "Rock til ya drop" is the Invictas motto! Nasher had the forethought to pack a few beers so we popped a couple. We wandered up to the little table with cd's, hats and tee shirts for sale. It was manned by Tim Kearney a former Bengel's bartender and as it turned out the brother of one of Nasher's old boyfriends. Small world. Tim said he would pass her info on to his brother.
He let us stash our purses so we could get down to some serious dancing.  Honestly the guys sounded even better than I expected and certainly better than many current bands. There were a few new members and lots of instruments and amps. Plus they were hot!! All were in excellent shape and could not only sing but were smokin on their instruments. I love our generation.

When they took a break we got to catch up on old times and were in tears laughing.  What happened to Jim's (Spank) straight carefully "ironed" brown hair? It is all wild and curly now, perfect for a Bass player or "hey, I am just the bass player". Herb, the Lead singer is still the promoter and keeps the crowd rockin out. Dave, the drummer is as mellow as I remembered him.  Unfortunately I did not get to meet the other members.   Nasher was asking about another of her old flings, Eddie who was the roadie equipment guy for the band. He used to pick her up in the hearse at her house. Dad Nash wasn't too happy about that mode of transportation. Jim said he had Eddie's contact info, mentioning that he was once a truck driver but something happened to his eyes so now he was a security guard.  Hello! Don't they carry guns and don't you have to see to shoot one? Peels of laughter, then we remembered when the hearse ran over Nashers leg. Somehow she wasn't seriously injured but they remembered the tire left an imprint. It was so good to see them all again. They went back to play the last set which included "The Hump".  There was a cameraman filming for their upcoming CD. We might be included in the video which would be a total blast. Check out this site for a fun video about them.

We were starving and found a restaurant close by. The hamburgers looked huge so we split one. It was the best burger I have had in a very long time. The lettuce, tomato, onion that usually adorn burgers was actually like a salad, dressed with really good herb-y vinaigrette.
Marina's hamburger

 Just as we were toasting each other with glasses of fabulous red wine, the Hearse pulled around the corner. We waved, they honked and off they went into the night.
Rock til ya drop!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Bzzzzy Visit to Keuka Lake

Anne Leach has been my friend since we were in Monroe Community College together.  There is a lot of history here!  We did not get together often over the years as she was raising two kids and working in the BOCE school system along with the fact that we live on opposite coasts. Whenever we do get together it is like we saw each other yesterday!  I can't say enough about facebook for bringing people together ( I can say other things about it but that is beside the point). Now I can see pictures of her husband, sisters, children's weddings as well as the grandchildren that have since been born. It keeps one busy.  She and hubby, Steve, have a summer cottage on Keuka Lake, one of the 11 Finger Lakes in New York state. It is the "wishbone shaped" lake. This link has good information on the region that is rich in farming including vineyards and wineries. Truly beautiful topography.

I hopped into the Trailblazer with a google map in hand ( no gps and my phone couldn't "locate the server" grrr) and headed out of Penfield, or tried to.  I had to turn around about 5 times before I was heading in the right direction. The roads have sketchy signs at best, for instance, Marsh Rd is only Marsh Rd on the left side. It is another name on the right (my) side of the road so I blew right through that intersection. NY-31 E/Palmyra Rd/Pittsford Rd had a tiny old blue street sign that said Palmyra Rd. The NY-31 was only visible when I figured out to turn onto Palmyra Rd.  Frustrated to say the least, but everyone who lives here knows that Marsh Rd is where the Chevy dealer is and that is where you turn.

Happily I was finally heading east on the NY State Thruway and pretty much knew where I was going. Just follow the numbered roads! The radio station that I tuned in happened to be  "The Wease Show" on 95.1 The Brew radio station. Weasel, as we called him, used to date one of my roommates from 199 Meigs St. He was a crazy helicopter pilot stationed in Vietnam at the time and is still a riot! Don't think I'll have time to look him up.

I pulled over near Keuka College to call Anne to say I was close. The day was perfect, warm and sunny. The lake was calm with no one on it. The perks of visiting during the week.

There were tuna croissant sandwiches and local Reisling wine waiting for lunch. Perfect! We headed down to the lake to uncover her boat and go for a ride. The family golf cart shuttles everyone up and down the steep hill to the dock. I opted to take the stairs so I could get some excercise after the drive and lunch.  Anne loves to pilot her boat around the lake and I think we covered every inch. It was, beautiful. The lake is surrounded by bluffs, parts of which are covered with grapevines. We planned on visiting a few wineries the following day.

Dinner was had at the Esperanza Mansion where Anne's daughter, Bridget's wedding reception was held. The views were breathtaking. She had driven me past the Chapel that Nathan and Bridget were married in when we were out on the boat earlier. It should be a long and happy marriage with a start like that.

I woke up to fish jumping in the lake while hooked to a fisherman's line.  So cool!  A canoe was lazily cruising past the house too.

Off we went for some shopping, wine tasting and lunch.  Dr.Konstantin Frank was the winery I wanted to visit, known for their white varietals, particularly Reisling. I was surprised by the extensive line up of not only whites but red and sparkling wine as well as the large winery tasting room.  Guests are invited to wait in a "holding" room until a wine server comes to fetch them. An interesting way to control crowds.  I introduced myself as a "representative" from Peachy Canyon Winery in California and our server couldn't have been nicer, offering much information on the grapes and wines of the region.  I wasn't too keen on the reds but the sparkling, Reisling and Gewurztraminer were great. When my late husband, Steve and I had visited 15 or so years ago the winery was a little house pouring two white wines, Chardonnay and Reisling.  After I ordered a mixed case of various dry Reislings and Gewurztraminers to be shipped home, we were on our way to "Bully Hill Vineyards" for lunch. This winery has a colorful history and I suggest you check out the link for an interesting read about the founder Walter S. Taylor (yes that Taylor of Taylor Wines) and the goat. Unfortunately their wines are not that good. Most people must buy them for the quirky labels and the fun atmosphere in the tasting room. Lunch was pretty good with lake views.  It really didn't matter as Anne and I were having a blast laughing about past antics.
Anne's lunch, Scallops on Portabella mushrooms at Bully Hill

Back at the cottage we relaxed by the lake. It was choppy and breezy. I sorted through the coarse sand and rocks for bits of glass and shells. There were some pretty good pieces. Anne is amazed that I find that stuff and actually like it. When we returned to the house we heard buzzing as in bee/wasp buzzing.  We looked at the picture window in the front room and it was covered with yellow jackets.  She freaked out as she is allergic to them.  After a search of her shed she came back with a can of some kind of poison.  Unfortunately we couldn't get it to squirt.  Off we went to get a fresh can.  I suggested we  pick up some Benadryl just in case.  Back to the hive we went. I sprayed them and watched them fall to the ground. Outside we found their point of entry and sprayed that too.  I was feeling nauseous and wanted a glass of wine. Hoping we covered our tracks we took off for dinner in Penn Yan at Lloyds Limited, A Pub. It is a popular stop for locals and people going to the races in Watkins Glen.  I ordered a "beef on weck" because I have always wanted to taste this sandwich which is a favorite in nearby Buffalo, NY. The kimmelweck ( weck) roll is covered in salt and caraway seeds. It is filled with sliced beef and horseradish. I couldn't get past the salt.  I mean probably a days worth of sodium in just 1/2  a roll. In my salty days I probably would have loved it.  I took the second half to go. Anne ate it the next day and totally agreed with me. We are getting to be "old saltless fogies" I guess.

When we got back to the bee carnage I could still hear buzzing.  Sure enough they had made their way into the living room and were clinging to that window.  Shushhhh went the can of poison.  We closed the glass doors and went to bed, hoping they wouldn't make their way upstairs. 

The next morning I carefully lifted the bed covers and listened for buzzing, none. I slipped on my flip flops and went downstairs to the bathroom. Achhh! They were still flying around. One tried to follow me into the bathroom but it was kind of drugged so it didn't make it. The floor was covered in dead or mostly dead bees.  I had to be careful in the kitchen as they were lurking on the cabinets near the sink. For some reason I remembered that they can still sting you if you step on the dead ones.  I was out on the patio sipping some tea when Anne came down, barefoot! Holding my breath I asked her where her shoes were and ran upstairs to retrieve them explaining that she had just dodged many landmines. Realizing there was a real problem she was on the phone trying to find a bee exterminator. I was laughing hysterically as she was passed from one operator to another when the company was supposed to be right there in Penn Yan.

It was her birthday and we had plans to go to hear the "Invictas" an old rock and roll band from the 60's back in Rochester on Lake Ontario that evening. I packed up to drive back to my brother's and wished her luck in finding an exterminator. I knew she wouldn't give up until one showed up. 
Happy Bee Day, Annie!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Tripping around the Finger Lakes Region of NY

I just got back from a two week trip to the Greater Rochester area in New York State, which is situated near 11 Finger Lakes plus one of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario.  My brother's daughter, Emily came out to see me for 10 days and I accompanied her back to Rochester.  Bob picked us up at the Monroe County airport and spirited us back to his beautiful home in Penfield.
The warm slightly humid air felt great!  Pierre the cat greeted me like the long lost aunt that I am. The guest room that I usually stay in was ready, having been transformed from my nephew's hideaway office back into a comfortable bedroom.
My brother filled me in on that project!  Dinner was waiting for us from "Joey's Pasta House" a neighborhood Italian restaurant. Good pastas, garlicky scampi and four cheese ravioli with that rich tomato sauce that is sooo Rochester Italian.

The next day I woke up to clear blue skies and warm temperatures. Bob suggested that we take his boat out on Lake Ontario. His girlfriend had the day off and was all for it.  We packed up a cooler, I slathered on the sunscreen and filled the beach bag that I had the good sense to pack. All of a sudden these big black clouds moved in and I mean big and black. The temperatures dropped about 10 degrees and rain started coming down.  We all looked at each other, knowing this wasn't going to pass and said let's go out for cocktails!!  Clothes were changed and we piled into my brother's mint BMW 750 or some such number and headed for the mall in a driving rain-thunder and lightening storm.

They shopped and ran some errands while I wandered around. We met at a sports bar and proceeded to sip some cocktails and catch up on the latest happenings in Bob's world.  By the time we left the skies had cleared and it was blue, blue again. Too late for the boat though.  We headed home for a few hours to get our dinner plans together. 

There is a cool place called " Dinosaur Bar-B-Que".  Their original place was a biker bar in Syracuse, NY.  Very cool with super good food.  This was our decision for dinner. Take out is the easiest way for Bob to feed everyone he has living in his household. The kids are coming and going and they all eat at different times.  Everyone put in their orders and off we went to pick up the "Bar-B-Que". I bought a "Saddlebag" of  Dinosaur Bar B Que sauces to take home.

 My nephew Jacob showed up for dinner with a friend. OMG! He is a 6'2" teddy bear. Bob has his hands full feeding this crowd. We feasted on Pork and Brisket Plates, Bar b Que Pork Ribs, Big House Special plate, Pork BBQ sandwiches along with sides of Mac n Cheese, BBQ beans, corn, coleslaw and Honey Hush cornbread. There were plenty of leftovers for Jacob to take home.

Saturday was my first day to actually drive into Rochester in the Trailblazer, my ride for the duration. I went to the Park Avenue Art Festival in my old neighborhood.  My first apartment was the top half of a house at 199 Meigs St. that I shared with 3 or 4 girls and whoever was sleeping on the couch when we woke up.   Fun, fun times were had there. I walked the fair not seeing anything that I felt I could pack up to take home.  There were alot of food vendors but not one beer or wine vendor.  The cafes were packed. I was looking for an old watering hole we used to go to "Miller's" but couldn't find it. It turns out that I didn't walk far enough and it most likely had changed names.  I spotted the words "Garbage Plate" on one of the food trucks at the fair and there it was, Nick Tahou's! My buds and I would haunt the original restaurant on Main St. after rockin out all night at Tiny's Bengel Inn.  The last Garbage Plate I had was in the early 70's while I was visiting from California. I think it was the hamburger plate which was two thin hamburger patties, home fries, macaroni salad smothered with "Rochester hot sauce" .  My girlfriend, Nasher and I had been out drinking up a storm.  When I got back to my parents' house my visiting cousins were sleeping in my bedroom and one of them was on the floor next to my bed. Well up came the garbage plate in the middle of the night. Not good. Thankfully she still talks to me.

Just to be nostalgic I strolled down Meigs street. There was the house still standing with a big party going on!  I stopped to talk to a couple of the girls and told them my story of living there 40+ years ago. They loved it. It made me so happy to see the party house still rocking but it was time to find a beer.

I walked up to Monroe Ave and found a pub " The Park Bench".  About 4 people and a little dog were in there plus the bartender, Jill, who was totally hung over from celebrating her birthday the night before with shots of Jack Daniels.  For $2. I got a bottle of my old fav beer " Genesee  (Genny) Cream Ale".  How did this bar make any money?  I left a generous tip.

Sunday was family picnic time!  The weather cooperated as showers were forecast but didn't materialize.  I raided Bob's garden for tomatoes, peppers, beauty white onions and lots of herbs.  These were supplemented with summer squash, potatoes and salad greens.  Wegmans is the super grocery store in the area.  Bob gets his meat ground to order combining brisket and I think sirloin for hamburgers. We had to serve Zwiegle's hot dogs that Rochester is famous for. The "White Hots" are like bockwurst. You can get them with skin ( pop opens) or without.
Bob manning the grill

 Two years ago, when I was visiting, I picked up a bag of "salt" potatoes which were small white potatoes with coarse salt. The instructions said to roast them tossed with all of the salt to which I added chopped rosemary.  They were crunchy with salt and creamy centers. This time I bought a bag and the potatoes had grown into medium size and the salt was table salt with instructions to add 2 Tbsp. saving the rest for another use. What?? Who needs a cup of table salt leftover. Also you were to rub the potatoes with olive oil and chopped rosemary. I could have bought creamer potatoes and done the same thing which is how I usually roast them at home.  Maybe the salt police decided they would be healthier this way. Everyone seemed to like them at any rate.
My Cousins Nora and Gary brought a tomato and cucumber salad from her garden bounty. My grandniece, Alexandria, bought some unbelievably good biscuits for berry shortcakes.
Salads, Potatoes and more
Jacob's version of berry shortcake

I cut the veges and tossed them onto the grill early to free it up for the chicken my nephew, Robert was planning on cooking.  Robert's chicken is a family favorite. He buys the birds from an Italian butcher. I don't know what the heritage of these birds is but they were juicy and flavorful from the rub he used on them.

After the veges were grilled I cut them into bite sized pieces and tossed them with plenty of basil and parsley, balsamic vinegar and some ciliegine (cherry size mozzarella balls). I also set out a platter of proscuitto wrapped melon bites. The green beans were blanched and tossed with olive oil, slivered red peppers and coarse sea salt.

 We did typical family things like take mils of pictures and tell stories. Good time!.
Robert Jr., MaryJo, Brother Bob and me
Backyard fun.

Time to do some "lake-hopping". First stop will be Keuka, one of the Finger Lakes and a visit with my girlfriend Anne Leach.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Buon giorno Roma

Last February I traveled to Italy with my friends Vilia and Mike Wray and their daughter Nate ( think Jean Nate). Nate found a great deal for a "tour" of three cities, Rome, Florence and Venice.  We added three extra days to visit Sienna and beyond.
The tour included train tickets, a walking tour of Florence and very good hotel accommodations.  Nate scheduled tickets for a "hop on hop off" bus tour of Rome, the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and the Academie Musee in Florence to see "David". What was really great is that we didn't museum ourselves into boredom. Heck, Rome is one giant museum! Everywhere you walk are artifacts and crumbling ruins of days gone by. 

We were given good advice that one should stay awake when one lands so it is easier to acclimate to the time change. When you arrive at 9am, take a cab to the hotel Mecantate Palace and find out you can't check in until the afternoon there is no choice but to stay awake. We left our bags there and set off. Nate guided us to a little neighborhood bar for  cappucino and cream pastries. Luckily she spent 6 months in Florence and spoke passable Italian. The rest of us could say ciao, grazie and buon giorno pretty well.  One thing I loved is the language. It is like an animated song.  I liked learning how to pronounce the syllables for instance "ci"=ch. "Chi= k or "due=doo ay. There were a few online classes I started and I bought a phrase book by Rick Steve. No worries as most Italians spoke English and you could use your hands to explain things if needed. We got with the "hand gestures" program right away.

As we walked around our little neighborhood we came upon a piazza with a fenced off area of an ancient ruin.  Upon further inspection we noticed a large population of cats lounging on the stones and window sills. I love cats so took as many pics as I could.  The plaques said that Cleopatra gifted the gatto's from Egypt to Julius Caesar only to find out he was highly allergic. Well they stayed, making themselves at home. Romans do love the gattos and there were piles of food and bowls of water all around the ruins.  If you think about it they certainly are useful for controlling rodents.

This is old and full of cats

February is winter in Italy too.  It was pretty cold but we embraced it and bundled up. Vilia and I did some major shopping for warm sweaters, boots, jackets etc. before we left. 

We headed back to the Mecante Palace Hotel through the primarily Asian neighborhood but the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (largest church in Roma) was across the "Via" from us. The rooms were ready and very 4 star.  Huge marble bath with toilette (twah leht tay)and the other thing..bidet (b-day). They provided warm towels which were hung on the towel warming bars. One had to be very careful not to grab them when getting in or out of the tub as they were hot so I found out.  Nate and I had 2 beds, a nice view and beauty ornate high ceilings.

Not one to waste time, Nate had us all out the door after we barely dropped our luggage down.  We took the Metro to the Piazza de Spangna or the Spanish Steps= lots of steps. We walked them then sat down to take it all in. Everywhere we walked were fountains, old pavement, cool smelling shops selling pizza, salumi, breads, cheeses and more.  I couldn't stand it so we stopped in one and bought some cheese, salumi, focaccia and a slab of pizza for later. 

Spanish Steps w. Vilia, Mike and me

Nate leading us around

Next stop was the Trevi Fountain where you throw coins in the fountain and make a wish.  Can't tell you mine or it might not come true. We were sooo lucky that we were here at this time of year. The crowds were there but you could still get around without tripping over people. 

Nate guided us down little streets until we found a little bar and decided to get an antipasto misto and wine. This was our first encounter with real Italian food.  The wine is so inexpensive...15euro in restaurants and about 6-7euro in shops. Our "cameriera" (waitress) brought the most beauty Antipasto Misto...sliced proscuitto, salami, ham, soft mozzarella, out of season tomatoes, marinated artichokes and black olives ( like Lindsay brand). OMG!
Almost devoured Antipasto

If this is what was in store for us we had better walk long distances and often.  After this feast and a bottle of wine we headed to the Pantheon in Piazza della rotonda. It is a Roman circular temple to all gods.  First built by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus in 27 b.c. and rebuilt in 126 AD. There is a huge hole in the top that lets in amazing light and it is one piece of circular architecture.  Amazing. Not only the temple but the age of it!!

Large hole in the ceiling

It started to drizzle and we were getting cold so we took the metro back to the  hotel.  Now the metro is another story.  It is a great deal..6eu for a day pass and not crowded at, say, 1-3pm. however when rush hour is upon this area of Rome it is one crush of Italian humanity. Having lived in crowded cities before it was familiar but to the babes from T.O. (IE Mike and Vilia) it was unbelievable.  We made it back to the hotel and settled in for our soon to be routine "happy hour".
Mike had stashed a bottle of vodka in his bag, found some fresh oranges and procured ice from the bar downstairs.  We set out some of the goodies I bought earlier and popped a bottle of the $7 wine from the shop across from the hotel. Most of the wine we had was Chianti Classico or Rosso, a blend of usually Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet. The bottles with the rooster on them were the best choices and very authentic Tuscan wines. All good!!

Mellowed out but ready for more, we hopped back on the metro to see the Colossa ( Colosseum) at night.  It was amazing despite the many pesky vendors.  You can only view it from outside but it is lite up and beauty.  Supposedly in that neighborhood was a restaurant Nate had read about.  We walked and walked, crossing busy streets up hills and down hills until we finally found it. It was fun seeing the neighborhoods of this part of Roma. The restaurant was called Naumachia ristorante pizzeria It is billed as "steps away from the Colosseum". As I pointed out we walked in a very roundabout way until we did finally get there. Upon looking it up for this blog I see that neighborhood is infamous for tourist trap-ey ristorantes. Glad we stuck to Nate's suggestion as this was very good.

ghostly up there
Colosseum lite up at night

The experience started out a bit rocky.  I noticed a Canadian family at the next table who seemed to be regular visitors. That was encouraging.  The waiter wasn't at all attentive and since we had only been here 12 hrs our Italian wasn't even close to being able to come out of our mouths. Finally we got his attencione and ordered a very nice ($26.) bottle of Rosso de Montalcino Leonardo. We opted for pasta all around. Nate- Ravioli con spinaci, Vilia- Homemade fettuccine w. linguica sausage in a very thick-yummy sauce. Mike- Lasagna w. linguica sausage bolognese. Me-bucatina a'la Amatriciana-totally blew my taste buds it was sooo good.  The pastas were thickly cut except for ravioli and lasagne sheets which were thin. Vilia and I decided we needed insalatas so she ordered Insalata con tonno(tuna) & uova (egg) and I Burino Insalata-arugula, romaine, thinly sliced mushrooms, artichokes, chopped burrata ( soft moz.cheese), and those Lindsay-like ripe black olives.  They offer olive oil and red wine vinegar so you can dress the insalatas. Two large bowls arrived filled with our insalatas. I asked for plates by way of " how do we eat these?"  The waiter brought plates but it was still way too much food. He seemed to tolerate us but soon warmed up to us as the meal was drawing to a close. For dolce=dessert, we opted for limoncello. So good. The waiter comped us a second glass, just what we needed.  By the time we paid the bill "Antonio", our new best friend  was blowing us kisses. We vowed to return which seemed like a good idea at the time.  Maybe someday. We only moved forward on this trip as time was an issue.

Burino Insalata and Bucatini a'la Amatriciana

Ravioli con spinaci

The metro ride back was fun. It wasn't crowded and we were all laughing from limoncello highs and no sleep in 24 hrs. Vilia struck up a conversation with a German tourist who was trying to find his way to the Termni=train station. Well she thought he wanted to go to Germany. Finally Nate pointed him in the right direction while we were bursting laughing for our lives!! You had to be there.

Back at the hotel we fell into bed at 11pm Roma time which was about 2 days ago our time.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hooroo Australia..Thanks heaps!

Peta is a friend of Aarron and Mindi's. She travels all over the world organizing the Australian teams in the Winter and Summer Olympics then she returns home to Bondi Beach and looks for a job. The current job she has is an Event Planner and one of her clients was Julia Gillard who up until 4 days ago was the Prime Minister of Australia.  Julia's home was pointed out when I took the Sidney Harbour tour a week ago.

I met Peta at Mindi's wedding and have followed her adventures via facebook ( what else?).  We were happy she could join us for the evening.

Mindi met Peta and I at Bistro Moncur in the Woolahra Hotel on Queen St. in Paddo.  I had walked by the day before so I knew where it was. Cute neighborhood with lots of little shops, great gardens and older brownstones.  She had to drive 2 hours to get here after prying herself away from the boys. Aaron was a real trooper to offer this sleep over for mommy.
I am sure he would have liked to join us as Bistro Moncur is one of their favorite restaurants.  It is very hip and busy.
The food was incredible, wine good and the conversation lively.  Check out the menus..amazing

The next morning Mindi and I were up at 6 am. Check out was at 10am so we got an early start packing up.
The plan was a drive around some familiar Sydney neighborhoods. She lived and worked here for 4 years or so before Aaron got transferred to Newcastle. Since my flight wasn't until 9:30 pm we had alot of time to do a "drive around". 

We started out the drive around in Darlinghurst past Centennial Park, Rushcutters Bay ( I wanted to see this), which is quite small but pretty and on up to Sydney Harbour National Park which is huge. We took the Fairfax walk to North Head which is considered a "bushwalking track". There were spectacular views and unusual vegetation. The large sandstone rocks were very smooth from years of bushwalking visitors. Mindi pointed out where people jump to their deaths sort of like they do on the Golden Gate bridge.  There are park rangers that patrol plus some good Samaritans that have stopped many from jumping.  I took many pictures before we left, just as three huge tourist buses pulled up and people were pouring out with cameras hanging around their necks, all Asian, not school kids this time.

Park entrance

North Head

Mindi B.!

Jumping off point

Bondi Beach was next.  Mindi was to meet a Vintner who was interested in hiring her to distribute his wines. I told her I hadn't had an Aussie beer since landing-too busy discovering the yummy wines. We stopped in a beach side pub and did just that. As she was sipping a glass of sparkling wine her phone went off. It was the man saying he was in Bondi early and could they meet soon. We were laughing hysterically at her showing up a little tipsy.

And she got the job!!

I wandered around taking photos while she went to her meeting. It was hard to fathom, but many people get attacked by sharks in these beauty waters. One of Aaron's surfing buddies had been attacked a month or so ago in the evening. He survived. Mindi won't set foot in the water and she wishes Aaron wouldn't either.
Surfers at Bondi Beach
Shark bait?
Beautiful Bondi Beach

Time for a late lunch. We went to Surry Hills to the Red Lantern, a Vietnamese restaurant.  The neighborhood is quite charming with lots of interesting shops and Victorian buildings, also a few loiterers, one of whom started ranting and raving. Since we were on the patio there was no ignoring this man.  He must be a regular ranter as everyone kept their distance until he finally moved on.  The lunch was fantastic. I don't know why I didn't take any pictures.  When I went to the restroom I passed a table with cards promoting the owner and the cookbook he wrote.
I did a double take... it was Luke Nguyen's restaurant!  He is a chef on the Cooking Channel who travels around Vietnam and cooks outdoors in the street or on little boats. I love his show. I didn't even know he had a restaurant or that he was from Sydney. Now I do! His wife Pauline runs the restaurant when he is away.  We had three "entrees" which are appetizers to share.
Goi Vit- a warm duck, ginger and cabbage salad with banana blossoms, Bi Cuon Chay, Vietnamese vegetarian spring rolls and Goi Du Du. green papaya salad with pork and prawns. The Goi Du Du link is Luke's recipe. 

It was 4:30pm and Mindi had to head back to her little ones. She dropped me off at the airport.  I  was looking at 2 hours before I could check in and get rid of the bags and another 2 hours before boarding. What to do? Why have a last glass of wine and spend the rest of those Aussie $$. Hawaiian Airlines jetted off to Honolulu for another 5 hour layover.
I didn't regret one minute of this trip except the 5 day jet lag when I returned home....honestly it was a doozie.
Full moon over Sydney as we took off. Hooroo.

I know everyone is waiting to hear about the trip to Italy and I have started on that one. Just had to tie up the loose ends and couldn't pass up posting the Bondi Beach pics.