Visit to Utah. 4/14-4/29/18

We enjoy a quiet couple of weeks in Utah. The first week is windy and rainy and limits what we can do but the second week the weather is beautiful.

Our first event is the battle with the geese. Since more of the houses around the pond are occupied full time, the geese have fewer choices to use as their bathroom facilities. Ours has become a favorite. We strike back with our Patriotic Goose Guard! This turns out to be a good deterrent but since we will have to take it down when we depart, we are hoping that the geese will be imprinted with “this is a bad place to go.”

Patriotic Goose Guard

Once John has cleaned off the goose poo from the patio and washed the windows we are all set to enjoy the view out the windows.

John washing windows

But what is this I espy? A giant swan in the pond! I am impressed with how enormous this bird is. I look up information on swans. They are the second largest migratory bird in North America (after some sort of pelican) with a wing span of 10 feet across. They are also nasty tempered and I decide not to go out and try to shoo it away.

Swan-zilla across the pond

The swan swims closer to check out the goose guard

Many of the plants in our yard are blooming. The cacti all around the neighborhood are putting on quite the show this year.

Coreopsis, flowering cactus, and some sort of succulent by our driveway

We have done A LOT of cooking while we are here including two “fancy” dinners.  Fried scallops is always a favorite of mine and the shrimp in saffron Pernod sauce is especially delicious.

Fried scallops with new potatoes and broccoli salad

Shrimp in saffron Pernod sauce served with brown rice and collards and corn

While we are outside cleaning and setting up our goose guard we meet our new next door neighbors Shaleace and Rocky Price. They suggest that we come to dinner the following Sunday. With some trepidation we accept and I make snickerdoodle cookies to take along. We figure that they are LDS so the simple solution of a bottle of wine is a no-go.

Snickerdoodle cookies

They stop by on Sunday to arrange a time and catch us in our sweaty tennis clothes with the house in mild disarray. It is rather embarrassing. They say to come at 5 PM and when we do, we all sit down and eat immediately. We chat with them and their children, Shantay, and Clayton, over chicken and ribs. When dinner is done it is obvious that it is time for us to leave. It’s 6:45. It is a little weird. We go home and have a post-dinner happy hour.

While we are in St. George our nephew Andy’s wife, Brittany, has her baby. They name him Harrison but he goes by Harry. Now there are two new babies. Mike and Becca’s Jack will be the slightly older cousin. They have a little get-together to introduce the babies to each other.

New members of the family, Jack and Harry. Jack is about two months older than Harry.

The rest of the second week is spent playing tennis and doing shopping. It seems like there is always another thing we need from some store. St. George is notorious for not having everything you want in one place. At the end of the week we manage to make a dish that uses up mostly everything left in the refrigerator, Mediterranean Seafood Soup.

Mediterranean Seafood Soup

On Sunday we make the long journey home. Recently I decided it is better to do the whole trip in one day. Now I am not so sure. We end up being pretty exhausted afterwards. One bright spot on the trip is a stop at Mojave Thai Cuisine where we enjoy Spicy Thai Basil Eggplant with Tofu. Yum, spicy and delicious! (And enough to bring some home for lunch.)

Mojave Thai Cuisine’s Spicy Thai Basil Eggpllant with Tofu

We will only be home for a few weeks before heading back to St. George. Jonathan, Nathan, and Sam are flying in on June 3rd for a week+ visit. Looking forward to it.

Passover celebration 4/1/18

Since we just have gotten back from our Italy trip and there are engagement conflicts for the first two nights of Passover, we have our Seder on third night of Passover, April 1. I always enjoy preparing the food and getting the table ready.

Table setting

Jonathan and Ryan with the kids and Ryan’s sister arrive at 4 PM. The first order of business is some picture taking!

Seder crew

Beeba and Zayde with Nathan and Sam

Back in the house Nathan arranges the 10 plagues on the mantle while Sam directs the action by looking up the plagues on his laptop.

Nathan positioning the plagues with Ryan

Sammy directing the action from the computer

Perfect!

Now it is time to get down to serious Seder business.

Everyone at the table

Jonathan washing his hands while Nathan holds the bowl of water. Sam off camera has the towel.

Sam does a superb job with the Four Questions

Nathan dipping parsley in the salt water

For dinner we have grilled lamb…

Yummy mashed potatoes…

And asparagus.

Sarah’s homemade macaroons for dessert!

We finish up the evening with some hearty “pouring out of wrath” and many songs. This is our best Seder yet!

Final vacation day. 3/27/18

We have one last spectacular sight to see, the Monreale Cathedral. It is the best of all the mosaic-decorated churches rolled into one.  It was begun in 1174 by William II. From top to bottom it is full of glittering mosaics on gold backgrounds.

We leave the hotel in Palermo in the morning and make our way up the steep mountain to Monreale. I must give John a shout-out for a great driving job throughout our trip. He has negotiated the traffic, the narrow roads, the unpredictable driving habits of Italians, and my navigation without getting ruffled. While it is possible to see many of the sights we saw during our trip by public transportation, having a car gives you the flexibility to go a little off the beaten path and set your own schedule and agenda. After we see the Monreale Cathedral we will drive to the Palermo airport and say arrividerci to the car and Sicily.

Following are a bunch of pictures of the Monreale Cathedral. It is so huge that taking pictures is hard and enlarging them afterwards often makes them a bit fuzzy with dulled colors. In order to make sense of the visual onslaught we rented an audio tour to help us.

Monreale Cathedral

Close up of apse

Mary among angels and apostles

The Last Supper

Noah’s ark

The betrayal

Back wall

Biblical stories are told everywhere!

Now we need to kill some time before our flight to Rome. What better way than by having a leisurely lunch at Taverna del Pavone, a restaurant we have eaten at in the past.  As usual we start with salads and them move on to a main course.

Mary – tagliatelle with boar ragu

Sarah – spaghetti with bottarga

John inexplicably orders a plate of chicken. Perhaps he is pining for home.

Goodbye, Sicily

We fly to Rome and spend the night at an airport hotel. In the morning we make our way to London and then the long flight to SFO.

No matter how many times we have been to Italy, I am always looking forward to the next trip. See you in December, Italy!