April 26, 2015 – Bari

The other night Yuri, from Vincanto in Pompei, asked us where we were going next. We said, Bari. He looked at us quizzically and said, Bari? There’s not too much to do in Bari but Sarah wanted to come here because of St. Nicholas of Bari and so here we are.

Our first plan is to walk over to the art museum and give it a look. On the way there we find that there is a road race going on and a fabulous fish market. The art museum will have to wait.

The fish market is definitely a man’s affair. There are men beating octopi on the pavement to tenderize it. There are men washing octopi in big tubs of soapy water, men shelling sea urchins and hairy mussels, men shopping, smoking, drinking beer and playing cards. Sarah and I are the only women here. It’s all quite fascinating.

Washing an octopus in a soapy tub

Washing an octopus in a soapy tub


Opening sea urchins

Opening sea urchins


Tasty morsels for sale

Tasty morsels for sale


Road race finish line

Road race finish line


Finally we make it to the art museum. It is an easily manageable size. Since we usually concentrate on the early works through the 1600’s we have good parameters for not getting exhausted. Sarah and I get out our list of Saints and their attributes in art and go to work identifying who’s who in the art museum. We snap a few picture before we get the ominous warning, “NO FOTO!”
St. Nicholas holding his three bags of gold that he gave to three young women so they could have dowries instead of becoming prostitutes

St. Nicholas holding his three bags of gold that he gave to three young women so they could have dowries instead of becoming prostitutes


Back out in the sunshine for a walk in the old city to find San Sabino, the cathedral here. There are extensive excavations under the current cathedral with layers of old churches going back to Paleo-Christian times. An early layer has a mosaic floor.
Mosaic floor from Paleo-Christian church

Mosaic floor from Paleo-Christian church


Detail of an octopus

Detail of an octopus


Done with the cathedral we hurry to make our lunch reservation. We have learned over the years that on Sunday especially Italians eat their big meal with their whole families at lunchtime. Restaurants are not open for dinner. So we know to fill up now and skip dinner later. The restaurant, Gianpolo, is serving many families. There are tables of eight, twelve and more. Kids are running around all dressed up for the big Sunday event. It appears to be multi-generational with nonna and nonno, mom and dad, aunts and uncles and cousins. Our table of three is the smallest. We do a good job, though, at the lunch eating. Like the other tables we get extras for free and presents to take home.

Seriously, all we ordered was mixed antipasti, pasta, and sorbet.

In the meantime the Italian families are still going strong. An hour and a half later when we leave our hotel after a small siesta we see them just coming out of the restaurant. There’s no turning tables here!

We take a walk over to see the Church of St. Nicholas. It’s very old having been built and the 11th and 12th century. It looks like they have some excellent old paintings but they are roped off and we are disappointed that we can’t a closer look. As it turns out, St. Nicholas was actually the bishop of Myra in Turkey. In the 11th century some Italians from Bari stole his remains and built this church for them. I read that Turkey is trying to get them back. Saintly remains are good for tourism.

Madonna and Child with Saints - the saint to Mary's left is St. Nicholas

Madonna and Child with Saints – the saint to Mary’s left is St. Nicholas


Church of St. Nicholas

Church of St. Nicholas


Interior of church

Interior of church


As we walk through the early evening streets people are sitting in cafes and children are playing soccer in the piazzas. We decide to join them. We have a beverage and some snacks to tide us over until the morning.
Sarah at an outdoor cafe

Sarah at an outdoor cafe

April 25, 2015 – Matera

Today is supposed to be just a travel day with a brief stop in Matera but ends up being an opportunity to see amazing art and history spanning 9000 years.

We are traveling from Pompei to Bari today from the west coast to the east coast of Italy. Sarah wants to see the city of St. Nicholas of Bari. Rather than have the trip be uninterrupted driving I find that there is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Matera, which is along the way, and book some tickets to see the the Crypt of the Original Sin, also known as the “Sistine Chapel” of Rupestrian wall painting.

Situated in a rocky hollow overlooking the limestone cliff along the ancient Appian Way, the “Painter of The Flowers of Matera” has narrated scenes from the Old and New Testament in a cycle of frescoes dating back to the 9th century. A. D. We climb down a ravine and settle into the darkness of the cave.

Sarah and Mary waiting at the sketchy gas station for the guide

Sarah and Mary waiting at the sketchy gas station for the guide


The ravine where the paintings were found

The ravine where the paintings were found


Caves in the immediate area show long habitation of the area

Caves in the immediate area show long habitation of the area

As lights pick up the various paintings, we see three niches depicting St. Peter, the Madonna and child, and three archangels. On the side wall there is the creation story with God dividing Light (depicted by a woman) and Darkness (a young man) and the whole Garden of Eden creation and expulsion. Tying this all together is a field of red flowers. It is amazing!

St. Peter with John and Andrew

St. Peter with John and Andrew


Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child


Three archangels

Three archangels


Creation story

Creation story

Our guide, a young Italian man, hands us a written English version of the oral narrative which is all in Italian. Later, in Italian, he explains how the forbidden fruit became an apple instead of a fig. It was a mix-up in translation between mala, evil, and mela, apple. Although our Italian is pretty rudimentary we are able to pick up a few words here and there to get the gist of what he is saying (thanks, Rosetta Stone!)

Our guide at the entrance to the cave

Our guide at the entrance to the cave

After this fabulous experience we head into Matera for a late lunch. We had read that there are limestone caves called “Sassi” in the area once occupied by cave people 9000 years ago. So we figure we will give them a drive-by on our way. Turns out that there is an overlook right off the main piazza of Matera. And it is not just a few caves. It’s a whole city of caves that have been continuously occupied for 9000 years! Some are still just caves while others have had a front extension. People still live here! Everything is built of white limestone.

Pre-historic caves and built up cave city

Pre-historic caves and built up cave city


Sassi of Matera

Sassi of Matera

Sarah and Mary at the overlook

Sarah and Mary at the overlook

So what started as kind of a throw away day has become something extraordinary.

The rest of the day seems pretty anti-climactic. We have pizza for lunch and drive the rest of the way to Bari. We skip dinner and turn in early.

Yay, pizza!

Yay, pizza!

April 24, 2015 – Naples

This morning we take the train to Naples from the scruffy train station in Pompei. The train station and the train cars are covered in graffiti. The Circumvesuviana line runs from Naples all the way out to Sorrento. We didn’t know that when we took the car to Sorrento yesterday. But the train is slow and makes every stop along the way so it probably would have been way slower than the car.

Sarah and John at the train station in Pompei

Sarah and John at the train station in Pompei


M & J on the train

M & J on the train


Disembarking from the train in Naples we find ourselves in a blur of people, vehicles, and noise. It is a very busy place. The urban scene is not interrupted by parks at least as far as we can see. In the streets the people, bicycles, cars, taxis, motor scooters, buses, and trucks play an elaborate game of chicken.

We make our way to the Pio Monte della Misericordia. Founded in 1601 by a brotherhood dedicated to merciful acts, it is famous for its art works, including Caravaggio’s The Seven Works of Mercy. In the painting over the altar are depicted the acts of mercy that the brotherhood aspired to – feeding the poor, visiting the sick and incarcerated, burying the dead, giving drink to the thirsty, and clothing the naked. We rent the audio tour and view the paintings in the church and nearby picture gallery.

Caravaggio's  The Seven Works of Mercy

Caravaggio’s The Seven Works of Mercy


Next we make our way to Naples’s Duomo. Usually these cathedrals are situated in a large piazza but in Naples everything is pretty much on top of each other. A section of the cathedral traces it roots back to Paleo-Christian times. There are mosaics from the 4th century, about as old as any Christian art there is in Europe.
Naples Duomo

Naples Duomo


Mosaic from the Paleo-Christian remnant of the chuch

Mosaic from the Paleo-Christian remnant of the chuch


Mosaic of St. Mark's attribute, the lion

Mosaic of St. Mark’s attribute, the lion


A stop for lunch! We are railroaded by the serving person into having a seafood pasta and an octopus starter. I really want a pizza. After all this is Napoli, the birthplace of pizza. I eye other patrons pizzas hungrily as watch John and Sarah suck on their enormous shrimp heads. I am just not that adventurous.

This guy is eating what I really wanted

This guy is eating what I really wanted


So, feeling grumpy for lack of pizza, and achy from all the walking, standing and stair climbing, I dart through the traffic to the Archaeological Museum. Here we are looking forward to seeing the wall paintings and mosaics from the Pompei excavations.
The wall paintings are amazing. Many have an almost impressionistic element to them. Also perspective! After the fall of the Roman Empire it would take until the late 14th century to regain these elements of art. We are wowed.
Dionysius wearing grapes in front of a mountain with impressionistic trees (wall painting from Pompei)

Dionysius wearing grapes in front of a mountain with impressionistic trees (wall painting from Pompei)


Mosaic from Pompei

Mosaic from Pompei

Mosaic from Pompei

Mosaic from Pompei


Dinner tonight is at Vincanto again. What a great place. If you are ever in Pompei, it is a great place to eat. Just let Yuri pick out your wine and courses. You’ll be pleased.

April 23, 2015 – Capri

Today we are super touristy and go to Capri, take a boat ride around the island, Sarah visits the Blue Grotto, and we eat gelato.

Our adventure starts in the usual way with Jack, our GPS, giving us a terrible route so that it takes us way longer to drive to Sorrento than needs be. Jack has turned out to be pretty unreliable on this trip. We finally get to Sorrento where we will take the 20 minute jet ferry to Capri. There are a lot of people going to Capri. Boatloads of them.

Sarah waiting for the boat to Capri

Sarah waiting for the boat to Capri


Mary and John at Sorrento port

Mary and John at Sorrento port


Arriving in Capri

Arriving in Capri

Once on the island we buy tickets to ride a boat around the island with a stop at the Blue Grotto. We see a couple of other grottoes as well – the White Grotto and the Green Grotto. There is also a formation called faraglioni which are sea stacks created by erosion. Often the stack begins as part of the land mass, then an arch forms by erosion and finally the arch falls into the sea leaving a stack or faraglione.

John on the boat for the sail around Capri

John on the boat for the sail around Capri


Mary and John selfie

Mary and John selfie

Capri port in background

Capri port in background


Bronze welcoming statue

Bronze welcoming statue


Boat pulling into White Grotto

Boat pulling into White Grotto


White Grotto

White Grotto


Faraglioni

Faraglioni


Green Grotto

Green Grotto

Sarah takes the trip by rowboat into the Blue Grotto without us. The idea of stepping out of the larger boat into a smaller boat bobbing in the sea is more than I can imagine trying to do. Just getting on and off the bigger boat is difficult. She makes friends with the rower and the people on her little rowboat and has a good time. The pictures she has taken of the Blue Grotto look pretty much like the other grottoes we have been in.

Sarah awaiting rowboat for a ride into the Blue Grotto

Sarah awaiting rowboat for a ride into the Blue Grotto


Sarah arriving back from her rowboat ride

Sarah arriving back from her rowboat ride

After we dock we find a place for lunch. Lunch is followed by gelato. Afterward we wander around and wait for the boat back to Sorrento.


Sarah and Mom wait for the boat

Sarah and Mom wait for the boat

The trip home goes much more smoothly as we ignore Jack and follow the signs back to Pompei. Everyone is pretty much tired out from our outing and we opt for a picnic in the room for dinner.

Picnic in our room

Picnic in our room

Sarah and we are looking forward to tomorrow when we shall forsake the car and take the train into Naples. We plan on looking at less touristy things such as paintings in old churches and an art and archaeological museum.

April 22, 2015 – Mt. Vesuvius and the Excavations at Pompei

Sarah is up before dawn, 3:30 AM to be exact. I rise at the same time as yesterday, 5:50 AM. John sleeps until almost 7 AM. It is the dreaded third day. You think you are doing well with the jetlag but it gets you on the third day. We have a lot planned for today – another attempt at the Mt. Vesuvius climb, clothes washing, and a visit to the Pompei ruins. We are trying to be strategic about all this. We will hit Mt. Vesuvius right at the opening time of 9 AM, do the climb, find some lunch, wash clothes during siesta time (and perhaps the hikers will actually take a little nap), visit the ruins starting around 4 or so after the bulk of tourists have left, and have a late dinner at a wine bar that serves snacks that we spied during our walk last night. It is nearby.

Sarah, by the way, seems fully recovered.

We get to the parking area for the walk up Vesuvius shortly after 9. There are a few tour buses and a sprinkling of private vehicles. I take a picture of John and Sarah before the ascent. I have decided not to join them. It is about a half mile of 14% grade. I could probably make it up but I have no knee brakes and coming down would be extremely difficult. I opt for sitting in the car protecting their valuables and playing on my iPad. A small snooze seems possible.

Sarah and John before the ascent. John looks like he is anticipating pain.

Sarah and John before the ascent. John looks like he is anticipating pain.

After about two hours John and Sarah are back. They report that the climb was difficult and the descent even more so. The views from the summit out over the Bay of Naples are beautiful. The caldera looks like the Pit of Carkoon from Star Wars. Or maybe just a big hole with dirt in it and steam escaping here and there. They have had a great time. John’s two bionic hips seem to have worked well. But I bet he will be mighty sore tomorrow.

Sarah along the trail to the summit

Sarah along the trail to the summit


John pausing on the way to the caldera

John pausing on the way to the caldera


The Pit of Carkoon, home to the Sarlacc or the caldera  of Vesuvius

The Pit of Carkoon, home to the Sarlacc or the caldera of Vesuvius


Sarah at the top!

Sarah at the top!


On the way down we encounter the same enormous traffic jam as yesterday. The taxi driver in front of us seems very upset and keeps getting out of his van to yell at various people. I guess this traffic must occur every day but no one seems to do anything about it. We are really glad that we got to the park early. It takes about half and hour or so to finally get down the mountain.

We stop at Todisco’s for lunch. This is a not-so-promising looking place in Pompei. You look at the dishes they have prepared and pick out what you want. You sit at picnic type tables with oil cloth tablecloths. The lady behind the counter is charming and insists that we try the beer that they have made. We are mostly excited about the vegetables. We have been eating few vegetables while here. They do not automatically come with an entree. We eat two platefuls and go back for a third. The tomatoes, though not in season yet, are really delicious.

Todisco's where the elite meet to eat

Todisco’s where the elite meet to eat


Sarah bringing her glam to Todisco's fancy dining room

Sarah bringing her glam to Todisco’s fancy dining room


Yay, for vegetables! Also the bread is delicious.

Yay, for vegetables! Also the bread is delicious.


John  and I have eggplant parmesan and Sarah has a chicken breast stuffed with egg and sausage

John and I have eggplant parmesan and Sarah has a chicken breast stuffed with egg and sausage


After a small siesta and some laundry we stike out for the ruins of Pompei. We get to the excavations around 4:30 and spend 2+ hours looking around. Once again the audio tour doesn’t quite match up with what you are looking at and several buildings are closed but there is still plenty to see. I cannot help but feel sad for all the people who were leading pretty nice lives here. They go to bed one night and all is fine and the next morning they are all dead from the hot gases and ash pouring out of Mt. Vesuvius.
The excavations at Pompei

The excavations at Pompei


The Temple of Jupiter

The Temple of Jupiter


John at a taverna

John at a taverna


Mosaic at the House of the Chained Dog

Mosaic at the House of the Chained Dog


Entry into the enormous House of the Faun

Entry into the enormous House of the Faun


In the back garden of the House of the Faun you can see Mt. Vesuvius looming

In the back garden of the House of the Faun you can see Mt. Vesuvius looming


In the evening we go to the wine bar, Vincanto, across the street. We ask the proprietor to just pickout stuff for us to eat. He is into using artisinal products. It seems like we have a ton to eat and a bottle of wine and dessert plus after dinner drinks. The bill comes to just 90 euros. Once again we are not sure what he has charged us for and what he just gave us for free. We have really enjoyed the food and hospitality. (And how great is it that the dollar is almost at par with the euro?!)

April 21, 2015 – Castrocielo to Pompei (not our best effort)

After a fond arrivederci to our new friends at Liola Hotel, we hit the road for the Vesuvius National Park. I have programmed our GPS, Jack, to take us there. Jack, though, can sometimes be perverse and we are caught in warren of tiny streets leading to the edge of the Park but no further. After driving and driving through crowded streets. (John actually nudged a pedestrian’s elbow with his side mirror, AGAIN! All time score for Italy vs. John, John 2 and pedestrians 0.)

Jack is totally useless so we try looking at an actual paper map! That’s useless too! So ultimately after driving around fruitlessly we decide to head to our hotel in Pompei and ask them how to get to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius. Arriving at the hotel which is actually a B & B, we find that the owners are not home and we are greeted by Romeo, a large golden retriever who likes to jump up and hump John’s leg and a cleaning lady from Ukraine. Surprisingly none of us are equipped to converse in Ukrainian. We borrow the internet and Sarah takes screen shots of the routing to the summit and we are off again.

Mary and the aptly named golden retriever, Romeo

Mary and the aptly named golden retriever, Romeo

As we drive along the autostrada we can see Mt. Vesuvius looming over us. Somehow we must find the road to the top.

Mt. Vesuvius

Mt. Vesuvius

Eureka! We have found the correct road. It is a narrow road with lots of switchbacks. Luckily there is very little traffic coming downhill. It never occurs to us to wonder why there is no downhill traffic. After several minutes of carefree driving we come across an immense traffic jam. Uphill behemoth buses cannot get by downhill behemoth buses. The road is too narrow. We all just sit there for a while. Then some enterprising German tour guide starts directing people to move over as far as possible to the edge of the road. All this is complicated by the fact that some people have abandoned their cars to take a look at what is going on. Whole busloads of people are wandering around. Finally the traffic begins a slow crawl up the mountain again.

On the way to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius

On the way to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius

We stop again. Some guy from the parking lot further up the mountain comes down yelling that the lot is full and we all have to turn around (somehow) and leave. The cars make many point u-turns but the buses have to back down the hill. It’s all a big mess. By the time we get back to the autostrada it is 1 PM. We have wasted a whole morning getting lost and getting stuck. So frustrating!

On the way back down Mt. Vesuvius a picture of the Bay of Naples

On the way back down Mt. Vesuvius a picture of the Bay of Naples

We decide to have lunch and discuss what we will do next. We head back to Pompei and have lunch at Zi Caterina, a place that John and I have eaten on a previous trip. We each have a beer, a salad, and share a smallish pizza.

We decide to try Mt. Vesuvius again first thing tomorrow morning and to head to the ruins of Herculaneum which is the smaller of the two archaeological ruins from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. We find the site and its parking lot with no trouble.

Sarah overlooking the ruins at Herculaneum

Sarah overlooking the ruins at Herculaneum

Whereas the people in Pompei were killed by the ash from the eruption, the people in Herculaneum were killed by hot gases. We rent audio tours and hear the poignant eye-witness story of Pliny the Younger, who survived and his search for his uncle, Pliny the Elder who died. He describes the scene in Herculaneum at the time of the eruption in detail.
We tell Sarah to go at her own speed through the ruins and we will meet later at the end of the audiotour. My knee is making for slow-going from the old folks.

The audiotour is kind of confusing. There are multiple labels on the different houses from earlier audiotours and many of the places that the current audiotour talks about are cordoned off.

A bas-relief from one of the houses

A bas-relief from one of the houses


A taverna where people could stop for a quick hot snack from the pots of food heated from underneath

A taverna where people could stop for a quick hot snack from the pots of food heated from underneath


Beautiful mosaic

Beautiful mosaic


Room decorated with wall paintings

Room decorated with wall paintings

As we make our way back to our meeting spot. I see Sarah waving down at us. Oh good, I think, she has finished the tour and is making sure I see her. We get a little closer. She is still waving. Then she calls out, “I’m sick!” Oh no! I snap into mother-mode and tear up the incline and the stairs. It seems that she has food poisoning and has spent the time while we have been wandering about the ruins throwing up etc. She looks pretty ghastly. The man at the audiotour kiosk has offered to call an ambulance. She says, though, that she is feeling a little better and we should just get back to the hotel. We decide to rest until around 8 PM and then decide what to do.

At 8 she comes down to our room dressed for dinner. Oh, the resilience of youth! We walk the half mile to the restaurant Add’ U Mimi (because no way are we taking the car out again) and have a nice dinner. Sarah appears to be totally over her illness. The place is boisterous and full of mostly Italians although one can never escape a sprinkling of Americans. At the end of the dinner the owner decides which things we will be paying for and what will be free. Weird. He offers us limoncello or meloncello gratis. The meloncello is surprisingly delicious.


On the left our new favorite after dinner treat, meloncello!

On the left our new favorite after dinner treat, meloncello!

What an exciting day it has been. I think we have gotten getting lost, getting stuck in monumental traffic, and Sarah getting sick taken care of. It should all be clear sailing ahead! (I hope)

April 20, 2015 – Pleasanton to Castrocielo, Italy

This morning we get up at 3 AM and 27 hours later we arrive at our hotel in Castrocielo. Each of us has had less than one hour’s worth of sleep.

Our first leg of the trip is from SFO to JFK. I would say it all went very smoothly but the flight is really bumpy and most of the time the “fasten seatbelts” sign is on. But we are still pretty chipper after the first 5+ hours of flying.

Sarah having a beer at the Admiral's Club at JFK

Sarah having a beer at the Admiral’s Club at JFK

We are flying Air Berlin from JFK to Dusseldorf. When one is using frequent flyer miles the routings are less than stellar. We have business class seats. The seats are only 20 inches wide. The full lie down position is less than 6 feet. Really not so good for John to try to get some sleep. The worst part for me, though, is that the entry into a pod of two adjoining seats is like trying to squeeze in and out of your car when another car is parked too close. We are trapped in our “honeymoon” seats for 7 hours.

Then we have a four hour layover in Dusseldorf. We are tired. There is no lounge. There are not enough bathroom stalls for the ladies. It is unpleasant. (Sorry for whinging.) Finally we are off to Rome. John looks tired. But there are great views of the Alps.

Tired John on the leg from Dusseldorf to Rome

Tired John on the leg from Dusseldorf to Rome

Snowy Alps

Snowy Alps

Now we need only to pick up the rental car and drive the hour and a half to our hotel for the night. John is a champ. Sarah is asleep. I keep nodding off. We stop for some espresso.

Our hotel is the Hotel Liota in Castrocielo. It is obviously meant for the short stay visitor. Easy on. Easy off. It appears to cater to tour groups. Our room is fine. We have an enclosed shower! Yay! (Sarah does not have an enclosed shower. Boo.)

Hotel Liota with tour bus out front

Hotel Liota with tour bus out front


We are staying in the gold room. Actually I  think all the rooms are gold.

We are staying in the gold room. Actually I think all the rooms are gold.

Enclosed shower!

Enclosed shower!

We shower and fall into a stuporous sleep until dinner.

Our dinner is in the hotel restaurant. It is quite crowded. A busload of Japanese tourists are here. The dining room is divided into a section where the tour group sits and an area where there are all Italians. Where to put us? We are seated right in between the Italians and the Japanese. Luckily we do not have to act as moderators between the two groups. The food is pretty good. Here’s what we had…

Finally the only thing left to do is write my blog and fall asleep. Mt. Vesuvius tomorrow!!

April 11, 2015 – Second Seder

We celebrate the Passover Seder a second time with the whole family. We have our traditional meal of matzoh ball soup, grilled lamb, mashed potatoes, green beans, and macaroons for dessert. Sam and Nathan hide the afikoman and while Sam is willing to give up its hiding place, Nathan manages to negotiate $20 each from Zayde in some shrewd bargaining.

Happy Passover!

The dining room is ready for our Seder

The dining room is ready for our Seder


I saw this frog bowl on Jon and Ryan's front porch and decided it would make the perfect Seder centerpiece

I saw this frog bowl on Jon and Ryan’s front porch and decided it would make the perfect Seder centerpiece


Before we sit down for dinner, some family pictures are taken

Before we sit down for dinner, some family pictures are taken


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John saying the blessing over the washing of the hands with Nathan assisting

John saying the blessing over the washing of the hands with Nathan assisting


John "Gramps" Henderson washes his hands while John enjoys wine leaning on his left side

John “Gramps” Henderson washes his hands while John enjoys wine leaning on his left side


Nathan is the water boy and Sam mans the towel for Sarah

Nathan is the water boy and Sam mans the towel for Sarah


Sam's favorite part is dipping the parsley and lettuce into the salt water

Sam’s favorite part is dipping the parsley and lettuce into the salt water

April 3, 2015 – First Seder

Our first Seder is strictly a small family affair – just John, Jon, Sarah and me. I want to try out some new recipes that I got from Food and Wine for Passover. One of the recipes calls for a whole piece of short ribs with three ribs. We get the meat from the butcher at Raley’s. It is enormous.

John with giant piece of meat

John with giant piece of meat


John strips the meat of silver skin and extraneous fat while Sarah and I make a rub. Then it goes in the oven to roast for four hours followed by an hour’s braise.
Meat in the oven

Meat in the oven


While it is cooking Sarah and I also tackle a potato kugel, a from-scratch matzoh ball soup, and macaroons. The result of all our work is so-so. The meat is good but our 7 1/2 pound piece of bone-in short ribs ended up weighing about two pounds afterwards. We’ll buy boneless short ribs from Costco next time. Due to an error setting the temperature correctly the kugel is way overdone, the soup is fine and cookies that Sarah makes are great as usual. For our big family Seder next Saturday we will stick with our tried and true menu.

In any case we have a lot of fun. After dinner we recreate a picture taken in 1984 of Sarah and Jon at our Seder then. (Shared with the Kendalls!)

Jon and Sarah before our Seder in 1984. Jon is 7 and Sarah is 4.

Jon and Sarah before our Seder in 1984. Jon is 7 and Sarah is 4.


2015 recreation!

2015 recreation!

March 23, 2015 – Sarah’s Birthday

Along with OMG can you believe that Nathan is 9 this month, the more startling fact is that Sarah is 35. She is a wonderful daughter with whom we have many great discussions and good laughs. We decide to head up to Sonoma for some wine tasting to celebrate the day.

After a brief stop at Jacuzzi Winery for some olive oil tasting we continue on for wine tasting at Kunde Winery, Chateau St. Jean, and Deerfield Ranch Winery.

It’s a fun day although at least two of us snooze a bit on the way home. (Not John who was the driver.)

Sarah outside of Kunde Winery

Sarah outside of Kunde Winery


Sarah in the Kunde tasting room

Sarah in the Kunde tasting room


Charcuterie plate at Chateau St. Jean

Charcuterie plate at Chateau St. Jean


Dad and Sarah at CSJ

Dad and Sarah at CSJ

The proud parents

The proud parents

March 18, 2015 – Tennis at Indian Wells

John and I go back to Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open again this year. We have tickets for four days and reservations at our favorite hotel, the Renaissance Esmeralda. Many of the players stay at the hotel and it is always fun to see them in person. This year I was brave enough to go up to Donald Young for a fist bump and a “Great job!” comment.

We get to see Roger Federer play twice and a lot of our other favorite players. Djokovic wins the tournament but Federer is at least in the final.

Andy Murray

Andy Murray


Serena Williams playing at Indian Wells for the first time in 14 years

Serena Williams playing at Indian Wells for the first time in 14 years


Our favorite player, Roger Federer

Our favorite player, Roger Federer


Feliciano Lopez is easy on the eye

Feliciano Lopez is easy on the eye

Record number of fans attend

Record number of fans attend

March 4, 2015 – Celebration of Nathan’s birthday

Can you believe it? Nathan is turning 9 years old! Wow, does time surely fly by. Since we are not going to be home when Nathan’s actual birthday date occurs, we are having a little early celebration with him. We bring some presents for both Nathan and Sam, some cupcakes, and lots of hugs.

Sarah reads a book to Nathan and Sam

Sarah reads a book to Nathan and Sam


A great hug from Nathan

A great hug from Nathan


One for Zayde too!

One for Zayde too!

Sarah and Jonathan

Sarah and Jonathan

February 26, 2015 – Sisters’ Weekend

Peggy and Phyllis join me in Las Vegas for the kickoff to Sisters’ Weekend. After meeting at the airport and picking up our rental car, we go to Caesar’s Palace for lunch at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. The food is really excellent and we all enjoy our lunches.

Phyllis and Peg toasting the kickoff to our Sisters' Weekend

Phyllis and Peg toasting the kickoff to our Sisters’ Weekend


Peggy likes dessert!

Peggy likes dessert!


Then we jump in the car and head off for Utah where we will spend the next couple of days. Got to stop and say hello to Arizona along the way!
Hello from Arizona!

Hello from Arizona!


On Friday we visit Zion National Park. We take a walk up the Weeping Wall Trail, visit the Gift Shop, take a look at the Great Arch and travel through the tunnel to the upper portion of Zion. We even see a wild mountain goat. Then we head back into Springdale for lunch at Oscar’s and a little shopping.
Mary and Phyllis at Zion National Park

Mary and Phyllis at Zion National Park


Peggy on the trail to the Weeping Wall

Peggy on the trail to the Weeping Wall


Phyllis and Peg near the Great Arch of Zion

Phyllis and Peg near the Great Arch of Zion


An exciting encounter with a wild mountain goat along the road

An exciting encounter with a wild mountain goat along the road


One night we go to dinner at the Kokopelli Restaurant at Entrada. Amazingly the food was not too bad!
Peg and Phyllis at Entrada with Snow Canyon in background

Peg and Phyllis at Entrada with Snow Canyon in background


On Sunday we take the long way to Hoover Dam. We are all concerned about the low level of water and the fact that no one seems to be taking it seriously.
At Hoover Dam

At Hoover Dam


Our weekend winds up with dinner at B & B Ristorante, a Mario Batali venture. We have the pasta tasting menu which turns out to be disappointing. We also catch the show, LOVE, about the Beatles.
All dressed up for dinner and a show

All dressed up for dinner and a show


Too quickly our weekend is over and we all head home. I think, though, that we all would like to make a weekend get-together an annual occurrence.

February 22, 2015 – Hookslide performs at Angelica’s

It is a busy weekend for us. In addition to our wine tasting yesterday, we have a Hookslide concert tonight at Angelica’s in Redwood City. We arrive early and get a fine table near the stage. Dinner is a part of the show tonight and we order some so-so food and a couple of glasses of wine.

Of course the best part of the evening is listening to Hookslide. They sing a variety of songs – some oldies, some funk, and even some show tunes which they’ll be singing at their upcoming gala gig in Palm Springs. We enjoy it all and espcially love, as everybody else does, Jon’s beatbox solo.

Hookslide on stage at Angelica's

Hookslide on stage at Angelica’s

Jon performing his beatbox solo

Jon performing his beatbox solo

February 21, 2015 – A trip up to the Sonoma Valley

We have a notification that our wine club shipment needs to be picked up at Chateau St. Jean. In addition there is an open house at the Eighth Street Wineries where our friend, Philippe, will be pouring some of his fine Stone Edge Farm wines. As it turns out Chateau St. Jean is also having a pick-up party so we decide to make a day (and night) of it.

After doing a tasting at CSJ we head down to the Eighth Street Wineries Open House, purchase our tasting glass and have a great time wandering among the winery warehouses tasting wine and lots of food treats. No need to buy lunch or dinner today!

After the open house we head up to the Gaige House in Glen Ellen to see if there is still a room available for the night. Luckily they have one Zen Suite left. Then back to CSJ for the pick-up party and we crash for the night. It’s been quite a tasty day!

Our friend, Philippe, pours John a glass of Stone Edge Farm's "Surround"

Our friend, Philippe, pours John a glass of Stone Edge Farm’s “Surround”


Our Zen Suite at the Gaige House

Our Zen Suite at the Gaige House


Fancy Zen bathtub!

Fancy Zen bathtub!

February 17, 2015 – Occasio Wine Maker Dinner at Posada

A few weeks ago I got an email from Occasio Winery in Livermore. We joined their Wine Club last year. The gist of the email was that they were going to have a wine maker’s dinner hosted at Posada, a restaurant serving contemporary southwestern cuisine. The menu looked really good and the price was outstanding so John said go ahead and book it. That’s what I tried to do. However, even though it was only the day after I had gotten the email, it was completely sold out. They took my name and said maybe they would host another one on the following Tuesday. Luckily for us they did have a second dinner.

Posada on Murietta Blvd., Livermore

Posada on Murietta Blvd., Livermore

We arrive and are a little nervous since we know no one there. We are ushered to a table for two in the back. It is sort of like we are not the diners they want to be seen. But we are totally okay with this because now we can chat with each other and not have the pressure of talking to strangers. We are poured a glass of welcoming Chardonnay. Soon the chef comes over to chat with us and then, right before dinner starts, the chef’s wife moves us to a table towards the front with another couple. He is a web designer and she is a school teacher originally from Mexico. They are pleasant and interesting dinner companions.

Since there are other people I don’t know at the table I don’t take pictures of the food. Here is the menu –
Steamed PEI mussels with chorizo, tarragon and pasta paired with their 2013 Chardonnay
Braised beef cheeks with pickled beets, arugula in blue cheese dressing and apple dressing paired with a 2011 Merlot

Beef cheeks and Occasio wine

Beef cheeks and Occasio wine


Churrasco lamb ribs and huitlacoche taco with esquites with a 2012 Syrah
Blackened Prime rib cubes with grilled vegetables and Dijon balsamic reduction plus a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Lemon crepes and citrus ricotta with blueberry chutney with the Occasio port

Everything is very tasty. The winemaker explains the wines and tells humorous anecdotes and Eduardo Posada, the chef, talks about why he decided on the food pairing for each course.

My favorites are the sauce from the mussel dish, the wonderfully tender beef cheeks, the terrific pickled beets, and the fabulous sauce accompanying the lamb ribs. But really it is all very delicious and I know we will be calling right away for the next wine dinner!

February 9, 2015 – A Visit with the Kendalls

Today we drive over to Corte Madera in Marin for a visit with Eileen and Jim, Ali and Eli and Vea. Eileen and Jim have rented a small house right on the bay with views of San Quentin and the Richmond bridge. It is pretty idyllic. Of course Eli and Vea occupy most of our attention as they are super cute. We’ve brought over a truck and some books that Nathan and Sam have outgrown and Eli really enjoys them and plays with the truck for quite a while. He also enjoys the little book with the different textures. He tries to show to Vea. It is sweet.

Eileen prepares a delicious lunch of various meats and salads. One thing she has is Affi’s aubergine spread. It is so delicious. I shall have to find it some place closer to home. (Later I buy it at Whole Foods) We have a little wine and do a little talking. Later we head down to Tiburon to see Ali and Van’s new place. The view is outstanding. They can see the San Francisco skyline and Angel Island from their kitchen and Van can ride his bike down to the commuter ferry to San Francisco. What a commute!

Time flies by and we have to beat the rush hour traffic so we leave mid-afternoon. They will be back in May in their little house by the bay but I am hoping that some day they will make the move permanently.

Adorable Eli

Adorable Eli


More Eli

More Eli


Ali and Vea

Ali and Vea

January, 2015

While it might seem like we did not do anything during January, it’s not true. I have just been procrastinating about writing my blog.

Sam turns 6 on January 11! We go to his after party party. His first party has been with his friends at the Legos store. Auntie Leigh makes him another incredible cake. This time it is of an Enderman from the Minecraft game. He opens our presents and we all eat cake!

Sam with his Enderman cake

Sam with his Enderman cake


The eatable cake is behind the Enderman

The eatable cake is behind the Enderman


Sam with Auntie Leigh looking pretty tired

Sam with Auntie Leigh looking pretty tired


Sam playing with his kinetic sand from Aunt Peg and Uncle Ted

Sam playing with his kinetic sand from Aunt Peg and Uncle Ted

On January 16 we host a dinner for our friends, Diana and Peter. I make some pretty killer hors d’ouevres, potatoes, and green beans and John seares some scallops. We have sherbet and strawberries for dessert. I think the dinner is a success!

Salmon on rye and egg salad on carrot and radish rounds

Salmon on rye and egg salad on carrot and radish rounds


Diana, Peter and John

Diana, Peter and John

Later this weekend, Jonathan, Nathan, and Sam come over. In addition to playing tennis all together and going out to lunch, we take Nathan and Sam for haircuts. The kids seem pleased by their new shorter locks!

Nathan before

Nathan before


Nathan after

Nathan after


Sam before

Sam before


Sam after

Sam after


The next weekend, January 24, Sarah moves back home. Jonathan, John, and I help with the move. Before long she is looking pretty settled in her upstaris apartment although there are still pictures to be hung and John and I need to finish clearing out one of the closets. This move is good for us too as we are forced to deal with a lot of accumulated junk.
Sarah's living room

Sarah’s living room


Sarah's bedroom

Sarah’s bedroom


Finally after quite a long time due to John’s hip surgery, we make it back to Utah. Mostly I want to get the house clean and ready for my sisters’ visit at the end of February. We have a couple of rainy days but the temperatures are springlike and we visit Zion while there.
Rainy day out our back window

Rainy day out our back window


Beautiful Zion

Beautiful Zion


On a trip to the ABC store to buy some wine we notice a new sign!

On a trip to the ABC store to buy some wine we notice a new sign!


In addition to all these activities John pays his last visit to the doctor and gets the go ahead to resume normal activities, we have a lot of workers in to take care of plumbing, cable and gutters, I take Jonathan shopping for his birthday, and we have dinner out with Karen and George.

At first I was going to write that January was a slow month – but I guess it wasn’t!!

January 7, 2015 – A belated Happy New Year

I have finally caught up with my December blog entries and now it is time to move on to 2015. We celebrated New Year’s Eve pretty quietly with our friends, Karen and George. We made a dinner which could have been a lot more successful and wished each other happy new year at 9:30. We finished by cleaning up the kitchen and going to bed by 10:30 PM. Woo hoo.

John and I are in the midst of trying to lose weight AGAIN!!! Our injuries and surgeries led to a pretty couch-potato-ish existence in 2014. I know we’ve done the diet thing before and I know we can do it again. Towards that end along with eating correctly and doing some exercise, I’ve started writing in my Dining Lite blog - https://dininglite.wordpress.com/

Here’s to a healthier 2015!

December 25, 2014 – Christmas Day

This morning is pretty low-key. Sarah, John and I get up late. First thing, we prepare our traditional Christmas breakfast. Our breakfast of bagels and lox is long standing but having a breakfast beer with it is fairly new but has quickly become part of the Christmas routine.

Christmas breakfast

Christmas breakfast


During breakfast we unwrap the presents we have given to each other.
Sarah attempts to figure out a Christmas clue

Sarah attempts to figure out a Christmas clue


Sarah has given us a beautiful book of early California photography

Sarah has given us a beautiful book of early California photography


After breakfast and present opening, we prepare the dishes we will bring to Jonathan’s for Christmas dinner. Then we are on our way to Palo Alto.

Jonathan has prepared a wonderful Christms dinner of prime rib, mashed potatoes and green beans. John has brought the gravy and I’ve brought along some smoked salmon spread and Indian pudding for dessert. The kids are mostly engrossed in their gifts. Unfortunately I forgot to take any pictures.