Fried Lumpia (Lumpiang Prito)

Filling

  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¼ lb ground pork
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup diced turnip
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, pared and diced
  • ½ cup green beans, julienne
  • ¼ lb small shrimp
  • one egg, lightly beaten (optional)

Wrapper
Frozen Chinese spring roll wrappers or Lumpia wrappers (available at Asian groceries)

1. Saute garlic and onion in hot oil. Add pork, sauté until fat comes out, add water, cover and simmer10 to 15 minutes or until pork is tender. Season with salt, fish sauce and pepper.
2. Add rest of ingredients and sauté for another 5 minutes or until vegetables are done.
3. Let cool to room temperature.

To wrap:
Place the wrapper diagonally so that a corner is pointing at you. Place two tablespoonfuls of filling near the corner of the wrapper that is facing you. Shape filling like a mini log, making sure to leave at least 1.5 inches edge space all around. Fold corner facing you over the filling, then tuck the sides and roll neatly. Seal the roll by moistening edge with water or egg that is lightly beaten.

To cook:
Deep fry lumpia rolls until golden brown, around 5 minutes. Serve with ketchup or sweet and sour sauce.


Char Siu Bao (Roast Pork Buns)

MAKES 16 BUNS

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE DOUGH:

  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 3½ cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tbsp. diced lard or vegetable shortening

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 3 scallions, white parts only, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups diced roast pork
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch

INSTRUCTIONS
1. For the dough: Combine yeast in 1¼ cups water heated to 115° in a bowl; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Combine flour, sugar, and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Add yeast mixture, and mix on low speed; add lard one piece at a time, increase speed to medium, and continue mixing until dough forms into a ball, about 5 minutes. Remove bowl from mixer, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Shape into 16 equal-size balls.

2. For the filling: Heat oil in a 10″ nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallions; cook for 1 minute. Add roast pork, soy and oyster sauces, and sugar; cook until scallions have softened and pork is heated through, about 3 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in 2 tbsp. water in a small cup, add to pork mixture, and cook until sauce thickens, about 1 minute more. Remove from heat, and let cool.

3. Place a dough ball in the palm of one hand and, with the thumb of your other hand, make a well in the center. Fill well with about 1½ tbsp. pork filling; seal by pinching dough closed toward the center. Place a 2″-square piece of parchment paper over pinched area. Turn bun over, and use scissors to make a ½” crisscross incision in the center of the bun. Repeat process, filling remaining buns and placing on parchment paper squares. Keep filled buns covered with a damp towel. Place 8 buns, paper side down, in an 11″ bamboo steamer; close tightly with lid. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups water to a boil in a 14″ flat-bottomed wok over high heat. Fit bamboo steamer into wok, and steam until puffed, about 12 minutes. Repeat with remaining buns


Leaf Peepers

Many months ago my sister, Phoebe, mentioned that she and her wife, Nancy, were thinking of a trek through New England to look at leaves. Something closer than a European trek like we've done in the past. Nancy's mom isn't doing all that great right now and she didn't want to put a continent and an ocean between her and mom. Makes perfect sense. We hadn't been north of Manchester, NH in years, so we jumped at the idea. Then my brother, Mike and his wife Debbie said they wanted to come. Then my sister Eileen and her husband, Mike. My sister, Arlene, is moving and couldn't swing it and driving around looking at leaves would be my sister Judy's version of the seventh level of hell. Four out of the six kids and spouses were committed.

We probably should all be committed. But that's another story for another day...

The original idea was to just drive around and go where we wanted to go and stop for the night where we wanted to stop. That works with 2. It even works with 4. It doesn't work with 8. I started looking at places to visit and places to stay. The new idea was to spend a couple of nights in several locations and to branch out and visit places on the way to the next spot as well as visit places in the various vicinities.

Mr Google and HomeAway became my new friends.

Emails flew 'cross country and folks started adding sites they'd like to see, things they wanted to do... A plan was formed. Instead of travelling through all of the northern states, we'd spend a couple of days in Boston and then concentrate on New Hampshire and Maine.

 

 

Day 1 - We had originally planned to fly up to Boston, coordinate arrival times, and meet the siblings at Logan Airport. Alas, I had some ear issues and wasn't all that thrilled about flying. Besides, I really do hate airports, nowadays.  So... we decided Amtrak was the way to go. And since it was a vacation, we justified spending the extra bucks and taking the Acela. When I was making the original reservations, Penn Station in New York was doing a lot of track work in preparation for the new Penn Station across the street at the old Post Office building. The Acela was the only train running from Philadelphia to Boston that didn't require getting off and changing trains. It is really such a civilised way to travel.

We arrived in Boston later than we planned, and jumped on the Silver Line bus to the airport to meet up with everyone. Mike and Phoebe both rented SUV's for the trek, so we all met up at the Car Rental and headed to Salem for our first house - a 5 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath home just blocks from the T Commuter Rail and all the tourist sites - and a block from a liquor store. We drove up Rt 1a, met up with the owner, one group headed to the store for alcohol and the rest called for pizza. We were going to head out for dinner but decided pizza and shots was a better way to start the trip.

The guy at the store saw Victor's camera and said take my picture. Here it is...

Lots of eating, drinking, and laughter. We made it to bed before neighbors had to call the police.

Day 2 - One of the benefits of having lived in Boston for many years is having friends in Boston! I met Dorrie back in 1981 when we both worked at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge.

Dorrie currently lives in Salem - behind The Witch's House and mere blocks from where we rented. Day 2 was Debbie's birthday and Mike and Debbie's Anniversary. We wanted to do something fun for the occasions and since we're all baseball fans thought a Red Sox game at Fenway Park would be a treat. It was, but more on that, later...

We woke up, pulled ourselves together, met Dorrie at the T stop and headed into town on the Commuter Rail line.  The end of the line is North Station, so we headed off to the Holocaust Memorial, then into Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, and down to the harbor to take the boat out to the USS Constitution.

The Holocaust Memorial is one of the most moving experiences a person can experience. It is beautiful and powerful in its simplicity.

It's also a reminder that we still have to speak up. We can never be silent. Ever.

It is truly a moving and remarkable place.

Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market have morphed considerably since I lived in Boston. We didn't hang out there long - it was off to catch a boat to see Old Ironsides. We got to the dock just as the boat was pulling out, so it was off to the outdoor bar. We shocked the young bartender by ordering 8 shots of tequila, numerous beers, wine, etc. It was still morning... But what the hell... vacation.

Shots consumed, it was off to the USS Constitution. Brother Mike had been to see it before, but it had been closed due to a government shutdown. I had been out there, as well, and still marvel at how small the ship actually is. Of course, I was stationed on an aircraft carrier. Perspective in all things... It is a commissioned ship in the US Navy, manned by actual naval personnel. It is a really difficult post to get assigned to. I didn't even try when I was a swabbie...

We headed back to Quincy Market and lunch at Ned Devine's. The space once was Ames Plow where yours truly got plowed more than a couple of times. I was living in East Boston and a buddy and I would hitch hike through the Callahan Tunnel at night after the T had stopped running. Sweet youth... The Plow was there for 40 years. I'm surprised it closed.

From Ned Devine's we headed into the North End. The trip over there has sure changed. The Central Artery once separated the North End from Quincy Market and you had to cross the road leading into the tunnel to get there. That's all gone now that the Big Dig is completed and everything is underground. It took me a while to get my bearings. But I did...

Lots of history, here. From the Old North Church of "one if by land and two if by sea" fame to streets and buildings that are just where they were in the founding days. Lots of colorful characters dressed in period costumes and playing roles of colonials. From colonials back to Hanover Street and Mike's Pastries.

I mean... ya gotta get cannoli... Mike's is pretty famous for their cannoli.

Armed with packets and parcels, we headed back to North Station to catch the Green Line to Fenway. We were meeting more friends, Deb and Ben, at the Royal Rooter's Club. The Boston T is a great way to get around. The oldest subway in the country - and parts of it show it. It can be miserable and hot at times, but it gets you where you need to be.

Being the outgoing and friendly group we are, we struck up conversations with some other folks, including a guy who was dropping off a German exchange student at the ballpark. He said outside food was not allowed at Fenway - prompting BIL Mike to hide his box of cannoli outside on the way to the park, planning on getting it on the way back. BTW... somewhere along the line a "Fenway" stop was built to take the pressure off the Kenmore stop. We took it not realizing it is about a million miles from Fenway Park.

We finally made it to the park and looked for Gate B to meet Deb and Ben. After our million mile walk, we had to completely circle the park to find the gate. It's the original "you can't get there from here..." In hindsight, had we taken the T to Kenmore, we would have walked right up to Gate B. Go figure.

But when we did find it, a great experience awaited us! Through a fairly nondescript door, The Royal Rooter Club is an exclusive season ticket holder enclave loaded to the rafters with Red Sox memorabilia. Deb was able to get us in.

If you're a baseball fan, there's nothing finer... We had a fun meal and then out to our seats. I had a roommate in Boston who was Regional Sales Director for Seagram's. We would occasionally get the Seagram's seats that were third row at the on deck circle. They also included access to the Seagram's Club Room somewhere upstairs. We saw more than a couple of games with one eye closed.

Red Sox fans are a unique breed even among baseball fans. Louder and more boisterous than most you'll ever see. The guy in front of me was a classic example. Loud, fun, and with a wife who was a rabid Yankees fan. They were a hoot. A few rows in front of them was a guy who missed most of the game just getting up to buy beer. But when he was there, his screaming trying to get the section to chant with him was hysterical. He was crushed when no one would join in.

The Sox lost the game big-time. It was a massacre. But a good time was had by all. We all headed for the exit and some of the folks decided the walk back to the T was way further than they wanted to walk. Heck with Mike's cannoli. It's Uber Time. Trying to get a vehicle near Fenway when 37,000 people are blocking the streets is not easy, but... we somehow persevered. The first car took 4 and we headed to North Station. The second car took 5 - it wasn't designed for that many, but the remaining folks weren't getting out. Clown Car Central. Mike never did get to retrieve his hidden cannoli. We figure either a homeless person or a squirrel was the happy recipient.

We missed the train by mere seconds and settled into North Station to await the last train - an hour away - when it was determined that another Uber would be $70 to Salem. Times two.

The last train out of town is always the most fun. There had been a Roger Waters/Pink Floyd concert at the Garden and it was a colorful ride back to Salem!

The two guys behind us looked like serial killers and more than a few folks had consumed mood-altering substances. It was a hoot of a trip. Definitely not the Quiet Car. But we made it back and settled into our beds to gain the energy for another fun day.

Day 3 - Our final full day in Boston started with a trek to Trader Joe's and Dunkin Donuts. Lots of wine, liquor, and snacks. And donuts. Can't forget the donuts. We finally pulled ourselves together to meet up with Dorrie for a Salem tour.

Naturally, we had to start with the Witches House - but it was closed. Naturally. Notice those beautiful blue skies. The weather was perfect.

Time to meander through Salem, with Dorrie as our guide. We met up with a few local characters and had a grand time.

Dorrie's son, Jordan, joined us for lunch and our tour of the House of the Seven Gables.

Jordan was supposed to meet us at the game the night before but ended up having to work. Fun fact: Victor and I took him to his first Sox game.

Off to the House of the Seven Gables...

Were it not for Nathaniel Hawthorne, this would be just another house in town... Actually, it wouldn't even be recognizable. It had been remodeled extensively until it was bought and brought back to it's seven-gabled glory. My parents visited Boston back in '83 and we did the tour. Hasn't changed much. But it is an interesting site.

We never did get to the Witches House. It was time to head back to the house for drinks and dinner. We were meeting up later for a Night Time Salem Tour.

Now... if you've never done a night time Salem tour - and I hadn't - be prepared for hoots and hollers. It was one of the most tongue-in-cheek experiences, ever. It was fun! Our tour guide was dressed as a cat - of course - and led us on a merry tour of all the murders, mayhems, and spooky things that have gone on in Salem for the past 300 years. It really was a hoot.

There are the obligatory grave yards...

And spooky windows, strange happenings, and unexplainable shenanigans... Did I mention that it was a hoot?!?

But all good things must come to an end... We headed back to the house for cocktails and conversation until midnight. We would have stayed up later but we were heading to New Hampshire in the morning.

Day 4 - Woke up to Thunderstorm - kaBOOM. Off to New Hampshire. We made a quick drive up to Manchester and showed everyone the park where we were married in 2010.

That is the gazebo where we were wed. The park is right along the river. From the park we retraced our steps to the pub where we had our wedding reception. The Shaskeen.

It's a fun and welcoming place in every sense of the words. More shots of Jameson's and a great lunch. The bartender, Amy, was still there from our last visit - she had given us Shaskeen rugby shirts - and remembered us. We had a great time - and great food.

From there it was off to our house up by Lake Winnipesaukee.

Four bedrooms, three and a half baths... and views to die for. We drew lots to see who would get which rooms and settled in just long enough to get into town and meet our friends Marlene and Pat. Marl was the woman who married us in that gazebo... We had a great dinner at a little place in Alton, NH.

At least I think we had a great dinner. We were talking so much I don't even remember the food. Soon, the natives started getting restless and we said our goodbyes and headed back to the house for a quiet evening. Well... quiet for us, anyway...

It was cards, jokes, more shots, and plotting the next day...

Day 5 - We woke to the silence of the country. It was glorious. The views were unbelievable and the air crisp and fresh. Not a lot of color - it had been too warm for major leaf-changing - but spectacular scenery, nonetheless.

Today was covered bridges and a drive around the lake. The lake is huge with miles and miles of coastline, resort towns, boating, fishing... a summer paradise. We were pulling in at the end of the season. The weather was still summer-like but the shops were closing.

We stopped at Wolfeboro for lunch at a restaurant right on the water. As Victor was backing up to take this picture, he knocked a light off the railing where it crashed into the parking lot, below. C'est la vie...

We shopped, bought t-shirts and more Christmas ornaments - because one can never have too many of either - and headed out to see covered bridges.

I have to admit that I don't quite see the allure of covered bridges. I mean... they're kinda cool to look at, but... they're just bridges built covered to keep the weather from destroying the structure. We have one a couple of miles from our house. That being said, the design of this one was pretty cool.

We headed back to the house and grilled burgers and dogs. There might have been a few drinks involved, as well.

Day 6 – North of the Notch and into Maine.

We've heard our friend, Marlene talking about heading north of the notch for more years than I can remember.  I was time to see just where the notch was! I was thinking that I had driven through there several times on treks up to Montreal when I lived in Boston, but... nope. Different route. I was a notch novice! First stop, the Flume.

The Flume Gorge is a natural gorge at the base of Mt Liberty. Pretty cool.

From here, we headed east into Maine.

We travelled on a lot of unpaved roads to get to our next spot. Rustic doesn't begin to describe it. But what a beautiful setting.

Camp Mollocket has been around for 90 years - and, in places, it looks it. At first glance, one might think it was the inspiration for the Bates Motel. We were totally isolated at this spot. No internet, no TV, no cell phones... But what a beautiful setting, right on Shagg Pond.

Huge stone fireplace - and we needed it. We ran out of propane.

We had brought our homemade pasta sauce and some rigatoni with us and Victor cooked dinner our first night here. Garlic bread, salad... and plenty of drinks.

We may be roughing it, but we eat well, dammit!

The building has 7 or 8 bedrooms - some with twin beds, and at least 4 with doubles. They are all decorated by type of flower. We were in the Primrose Room. Not sure which room this was.

Rustic in a really charming way. A bit too cutsie in one respect, but it fit the surroundings.

Day 7 – Camp Mollocket. Woke up to a chilly house. Lots of wood in the fireplace. Called the maintenance man and had a propane delivery by 4pm. Cute as a button delivery guy. Fun, friendly... He reminded me of my old roommate, Michael, who was from Livermore Falls, Maine - not far from Woodstock. Same cute smile.

It was perfect weather and we took advantage of it! Sunning on the dock, out on the pond in the boats, and just sitting under a tree reading. Total relaxation.

Here's Mike out in the canoe.

Eileen and Phoebe made delicious beef stew for dinner with biscuits.

It was great. The perfect meal in a rustic setting.

As funky as this place was, it was the perfect spot for a few days of total relaxation.

Day 8 - Seal Harbor, ME. Drove from Woodstock to the ocean. Another excellent house in Seal Harbor, Maine.

A couple of the houses had some distinctly better rooms than others, so we just numbered the rooms, put the numbers in a hat, and drew them. We were the last to draw and the top floor was what was left! The view from our bedroom was pretty nice...

The house was on 3 acres with lots to see. The family settled in and Victor and I headed out to dinner on our own. The town is pretty much closing for the season and we had a really quiet meal - just a few others in the place. I had an excellent seafood chowder and fried seafood plate. Victor went for clam chowder and stuffed shrimp. Both were really good. The waitress was a youngster who had 17 more days before being set free. We brought back desserts - white chocolate cheesecake and apple berry pie. We watched TV, played cards, and did what we do best... nothing.

 

Day 9 - Acadia and Bar Harbor.  We entered the park at Seal Harbor and meandered through and up to Cadillac Mountain. The views are breathtaking from there. I had been to Acadia twice before - once in May and once in October. Both times the weather was wet, drizzly, and windy with pretty big swells crashing onto the rocks. This trip was amazing. Blue skies and blue blue ocean. Just amazing. You could see forever.

We headed out to Bar Harbor for food, drink, and shopping. We had lunch at Jalapenos - a pretty good Mexican place for being so far from Mexico. More than a few pitchers of margaritas were consumed. A shot or two, as well.  There was a cruise ship in town so the place was hopping for this late in the season. We did our best to support the local economy and headed back into the park.

Next stop was Thunder Hole - a rock formation that makes a huge thunderous clap when the ocean rolls in. Today, the ocean was calmer than that last time I was there, but the thunder clap was still loud.

We all had dinner at same restaurant as last night. Where last night everything was excellent, tonight it was meh. The chowders were still excellent, but the veal oscar was tough, the food just mediocre. The funniest part was the drinks. Our young waitress was not a bartender by any stretch of the imagination. Three of the girls ordered dirty martinis and I'm not sure what it was that came out, but they sure as hell weren't  martinis. They were all different-looking, as well. They couldn't drink them. So... a few more different drinks were ordered. After dinner we opted for Sambuca. The poor girl didn't know what it was or how to serve it. We helped her out and still left a really good tip. Back to the house for more desserts and loads of laughs.

Day 10 - Back to Boston. We had two things to do today before checking into our hotel - An LL Bean run and lunch at the Muddy Rudder in Yarmouth. We did lunch first - no sense shopping on an empty stomach, ya know. Our waitress a hoot. An old-time waitress who knew how to dish it and take it. We laughed and laughed the entire meal. Mike Reidy finally got his lobster, too!

Lunch consumed and we were ready to shop. Up to LL Bean. I bought a new robe, shorts, and actual pajamas. I've been wearing PJ bottoms and sweatshirts or tshirts forever. I now have a matching set! Bring on Winter. We were in and out in 30 minutes.

Gone is the huge display of products they had refunded over the years - and gone was my nightshirt that was once displayed. Many years ago when i lived at Tahoe, I bought a nightshirt mailorder from LL Bean. Probably around 1976. I had that thing for years, I'd wear it, throw it in a corner, step on it, wash it, bleach it, add, stir, repeat. It was mere threads some time in the early '90s when I took a trip back to Boston. I brought it with me because Dorrie, Susan, and I had planned to go to LL Bean and I was bringing it along as a lark to show them how long I had had it.

We rented a Town Car and had a ball. When we got there, Susan said that I should just return it since they had a return policy that would pretty much cover anything. I wouldn't do it, so she took it up to the counter and started complaining about how it had worn out. I was mortified.

The poor girl at the desk didn't even know what it was. She called over a supervisor who looked at it and said. "This used to be a nightshirt, I think it was Campbell Plaid. The material used to be flannel. Give her another one." And off she went. I got a new nightshirt.

The place has changed dramatically since I was last there. The old building is gone and a huge complex is in its place. They were having a 20% off sale, music in the courtyard, and everyone was having a good time. I bought Mike a cannoli to replace the ones lost in Boston.

In under an hour, we were back on the road and headed for the Hampton Inn in Revere.

We spoke with the lady at the desk and she recommended an Italian place a couple blocks away - D'Amelio's Off The Boat Seafood Restaurant. EXCELLENT food.

I started off with a panko crusted polenta cake, on top of marinara, with wild mushrooms, and truffle moliterno cheese.

I then went for a flatbread... Fig and Proscuitto - Black mission fig jam, prosciutto, baby arugula, and balsamic glaze.

That piece in the corner was Victor's Lobster flatbread. OMG! Good. I think I may be making the fig prosciutto flatbread for Thanksgiving.

Everyone had a great meal. And then it was back to the hotel for teary goodbyes.

I've been known to cry at 7-Up commercials but there's something about saying goodbye to my siblings that gets me every time. It doesn't help that they're the same way. We fight it and laugh at it as the tears trickle down. It's just the way it is, and, to be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Day 11 - Early up and to the airport with Phoebe and Nancy. We checked the car in and the agent drove us right to our T stop and the girls to their gate. Great service. and just a few more tears.

We took the Silver line to South Station and up to Club Acela.

The woman at the Club recommended we call a Red Cap for our luggage. It's not usually our style, but she said we would get pre-boarding, so we went for it. He brought our luggage right to our seats on a sold out train so we got our pick of seats in the Quiet Car. Sweet, indeed.

It was a really great trip. I wish Arlene and Judy could have been there with us, but while they weren't there in person, they were there in spirit. The other two downsides of the trip were we weren't able to get into Vermont to see our friend, Ruth in Brattleboro and we couldn't reach my old roommate, Dusty, who lives in Watertown. There just aren't enough hours...

And speaking of spirits... I think I drank more in these 10 days than I have in the past 30 years. I never went overboard or anything, but it seems as if there was always some occasion where a shot of Jameson or tequila was called for. A seriously good non-hungover time was had by all.

I'm ready to do it, again!


California Dreamin'

Yes, we did. We rented a convertible. Fire engine red. It's fun to be in your '60s.

One of the many many fun things we did in California these past two weeks. And it really was a fun time. Family weddings are always a blast - and my family really does know how to have a good time. No angst, so drama, just lots of laughter. And alcohol. And food. And fun.

We took an early flight out of PHL and arrived in SFO at 9:30am. A full day to play after a long flight. And play, we did. First stop, Ocean Beach.

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I grew up two blocks from here. I really do miss it - even the damp. cold fog. It's a local thing. We headed down to Pacifica with my brother and took a hike along the ocean there - and then drove through the new Devils Slide tunnels and stopped at the old highway that is now a hiking path. More great ocean views.

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But we weren't out here to see the ocean, we were here for a wedding. It was off to Clear Lake.

Clear Lake is a couple of hours north of San Francisco. Lots of roads with 15mph hairpin turns. Great in a Mustang.

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I hadn't been up to the lake in years but my sister has been going up there with her husband's family forever. They just bought a house on the lake a couple of years ago. It's also where Maggie is from and where Sean and she met. It's stunningly beautiful.

Their house is great. It looks like a Tuscan Villa out of Architectural Digest, but it's a cozy, comfortable place built for relaxing and having fun.

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Modern kitchen with all the amenities...

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A dining table to die for...

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Little details...

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And an a backyard to end all backyards...

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A really fun thing about the house is the Guest House - a cabin that was brought down from the Sierras.

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It's rumored to have been built with wood from one of the Donner party cabins, but there's no official documentation. It doesn't matter. It's really cool.

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And with all the modern conveniences...

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Plenty of room to cook...

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And roomy enough for two... We stayed in the main house but I could move in here in a heartbeat!

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There are other really cool things on the property, including a little Hobbit Tree. There had been a fire in the base many years ago and a previous owner decided something whimsical was needed.

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And then there's the lake.

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The views constantly change, the colors constantly change. The only thing that doesn't change is the comfort.

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Looking straight out the back at dusk.

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That's Mount Konocti. It's a volcano that hasn't erupted in a few thousand years and is a part of the Clear Lake Volcanic Fields. It could happen.

But while I could wax poetically about Clear Lake for hours, the reason we were there was for a wedding. Little baby Sean - now 30 years of age - got married to one of the sweetest girls on the planet.

Maggie is from Middletown which is on Cobb Mountain - the largest of the two local peaks. The area has been devastated by fires - an arsonist was finally caught after setting at least 17 different fires and causing millions upon millions of dollars in damage. This is just outside of Middletown.

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And this is on the main street of the town of Lower Lake - not far from my sister's home. This was an auto repair shop. It's a miracle - and a testament to the people who fought these fires - that the entire town wasn't devastated. My brother-in-law and nephews were up here fighting the fires.

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But this wasn't about fires, it was about love - and the wedding was perfect.

My bother-in-law, Mike - the father of the groom - officiated. Here's Mike with the groom, Sean, and big brother and Best Man, Michael.

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Maggie and her dad... a totally stunning bride!

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And Sean with his mom - my sister, Eileen.

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The reception was a blast and went on until 10pm - and then it was back to the Twin Pine Casino for more outrageous fun. We all stayed at Twin Pine because it's the only hotel in the area large enough to handle all of us.

One fun tradition in our family is no one is officially married until YMCA is played. This wedding was no exception. I could post lots of blurry dancing pictures or just post the video of YMCA. And here it is:

 

 

That pretty much is my family in a nutshell.

And here's a flyover video of the wedding!

We spent the next few days on the lake - and some of it, literally.

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Mike took us out and we completely circumnavigated the lake. It's the largest natural lake in California and geologists think it may be the oldest lake in North America - more than 480,000 years old.

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Much of the shoreline is built up. Boat docks everywhere. But then there's just water for as far as the eyes can see.

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It truly is beautiful. Mike got the boat up to 65 mph at one point. We were flying across that water! It was insanely fun

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At some point, all good things must come to an end. Back to San Francisco and the ridiculous traffic.

Traffic. OMFG Traffic. It was bad 15 years ago when we left. It's gotten a thousand times worse. I wrote this on a San Francisco board I frequent - Western Neighborhoods Project:

Just got back from The City By The Bay...

We flew in September 20th, picked up our 2016 bright red Mustang Convertible, and headed right over to my brother's on 31st & Santiago.

We had landed by 9:30am and at 10 were on the road. 380 /280 /Brotherhood/ Lake Merced Blvd /Sunset. The traffic was horrendous.

Stayed local until Friday when we headed up to Clear Lake for the wedding. Traffic. Freakin' ridiculous.

Stayed with one of my sister's in Clearlake. They have a nice little lakeside place. Came back down Wednesday. Flippin' gawd-awful traffic.

Wednesday evening went down to The Old Clam House for dinner. Another sister works there as bartender. Traffic everywhere.

Thursday, headed over to Oakland to see an old friend. Ridiculous traffic.

Friday morning, headed to the airport. Flippin' cars everywhere.

In every traffic scenario, almost every car was a single driver. Ludicrous traffic.

Bumper-to-flippin'-bumper-traffic everywhere we went. The avenues, Sunset, in the Park. Bumper-to-flippin'-bumper-traffic.

Looking at the monstrosities being built on Brotherhood, counting no less than 20 tower cranes downtown, and hearing about plans to redevelop some retail parcels with shopping on the bottom and multi-story housing on top left me dumbfounded. The streets can no longer handle the traffic that is there right this minute. Adding thousands of more units of housing and millions of square feet of office space is only exacerbating the situation.

This trip finally cured me of missing San Francisco. The city of my youth no longer exists and I finally had to admit to myself that nostalgia is great - but longing for what once was is a losing proposition.

Of course, the irony of being a part of the traffic mess was not lost on us. We definitely would have taken MUNI/BART to Oakland,for instance, but we wanted to stop on Treasure Island on the way home to take pictures. There's no way to get to Treasure Island from Oakland. If we lived there, we'd do things differently, but with limited time, it was out into the foray.

Fortunately, I was able to keep my humor, take my time, and act like a civilized human being behind the wheel - being in a cop-magnet car helped.

But geeze, louise - traffic is bad.

But for every bad traffic day, we had great food days! I was seriously remiss in food-photography. In fact, the only picture I took was in a small restaurant called Mary's Place in Novato on the way to the lake.

It was a California Crepe - Bacon, Avocado, Green Onions, Scrambled Eggs, and Jack Cheese. I ate a lot of avocados while I was home.

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The whole trip was wonderful - traffic, aside. The downside was not being able to see any friends or family other than the immediate ones. We get our Facebook time and get to keep up with what's going on, but damn, I'd love to be able to sit down and really have some fun talks over dinner.

I keep saying "next time" and really hope next time becomes a reality.

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This is a poster by cartoonist Bill Bates who died in 2009. I'd love to have a copy - so keep your eyes out! This copy is at The Parkside Tavern.

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Dixie Chicks, Chocolate, and What If...

Last summer we learned that The Dixie Chicks were going to be touring - and they had a show planned for Hershey. Tickets wouldn't go on sale until November, so we set a reminder and bought them the first day we could. We printed them out and put them away.

Fast-forward seven months. Friday was the show.

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All I can say is The Dixie Chicks are back with a vengeance! What a fantastic show!

Neither of us had ever been to The Sweetest Place on Earth™  so we arrived early to check out the town. First off, if you've never been to Hershey, Pennsylvania, be prepared for chocolate.

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It's a company town. Chocolate Avenue, Cocoa Way, Hershey-this, and Hershey-that. Street lights downtown are shaped like Hershey Kisses. Hershey dominates. And all roads lead to Hersheypark. One word.

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Not really knowing where to start, we went logical - Hershey's Chocolate World. It's a faux-factory tour and a dozen ways to get you to part with your money. My complaint is you don't actually get to see that real chocolate being made. We toured a Hershey factory in California when we lived there, but that plant is now closed and the chocolates are now being made in Mexico - thank you, NAFTA. This was a very Disney-esque ride done with props and a lot of video.

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It was fun - it just wasn't seeing real chocolate being made - which really is kinda cool.

Not wanting to spend exorbitant amounts of money on Hershey-Logo'd clothes or other really dumb items, we left Chocolate World and headed up the the Hotel Hershey.

When I first started looking at where to stay, the Hotel Hershey was the first place I looked. And, at $456.00/night, I started looking elsewhere, right away. After seeing the hotel, I may have been a bit hasty. The place ain't half-bad. This is the back of the hotel. Pools, fountains, and huge expanses of green lawn abound.

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The hotel was staffed. And I mean staffed. There were people everywhere to do anything for you - with smiles on their faces. We walked into a couple of the gift shops and walked out with a couple of trinkets and bottles of Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar and Chocolate Raspberry Vinegar. We tasted it in the shop - both are ridiculously good!

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Besides the obvious topping on ice cream, there are a few ideas floating around in my mind... Stay tuned...

We headed back to our hotel for a bit of freshening up before the concert. This is the hotel next door to us - and, yes, they were open and renting rooms.

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A little rustoleum, a little paint ...

But I digress... It was off to Hersheypark Stadium for the concert!

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The place is pretty big - Paul McCartney's going to be playing there in July - but not arena huge. And we had good seats - 18 rows back, center stage.

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The concert was scheduled for 7pm. At 6:45pm, a few raindrops fell. At 6:50pm, the skies opened and a deluge fell from the shy. They cleared the seats and had us all under the stands.

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It poured for an hour. Everyone was soaked - and after a few minutes, in ridiculously good moods. We finally were able to get back to our seats and at 9pm the concert began.

They opened with The Long Way Around and went right into Lubbock or Leave It, and  then Truth #2.

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The backdrop videos were stunning.

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They did a Prince cover - Nothing Compares 2 U - and the crowd went wild.

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Song after song after song, the audience was on its feet. I'm glad we paid for seats - we never once sat in them.

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And they got political. They had to have shot a ton of red, white, and blue confetti into the crowd. Caricatures of all the presidential contenders danced across the screen. It was a sight to behold. Goodbye Earl had a picture of Trump with devil horns. Great stuff.

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My favorite song, though, was the first of their encores - I'm Not Ready to Make Nice. This has been my favorite song of theirs since the country music world vilified them for their comments about Dubya.

And while it's pretty hard to top this, their last song of the night was a dedication to the 49 victims in Orlando, played in front of a huge rainbow heart. A cover of Ben Harper's Better Way. Very moving. The crowd roared its approval. And it was an interesting crowd. All age groups, lots of folks who didn't look all that liberal on the surface - and everyone cheering the political stuff. The adage of don't judge a book by its cover was continually going through my mind.

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One of the best concerts I have seen in the modern era. It had everything. I am so glad we were there! We got back to the hotel at midnight, totally wired! It was a great night - pouring rain delay, and all. I'm still singing I'm Not Ready to Make Nice!

Saturday morning arrived without a cloud in the sky. After a leisurely breakfast , we decided it was time to see Hersheypark.

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We arrived just before the 10am opening and joined the queue. It went pretty quickly and in no time we were in the park and having fun.

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We took a merry-go-round ride, replaying a day in Santa Cruz where we almost got arrested for throwing taffy from the alpine cars. No taffy, this time, and no police greeted us at the end of the ride.

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But we did have fun.

 

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It was hot. This fair-skinned little boy slathered on the sun screen, but after 4 hours, it was time to say goodbye. I just can't do the direct sun/water park stuff stuff, anymore. But there is a lot to do if you can take the heat and don't mind standing in lines for indeterminate amounts of time with no shade.

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Back to the hotel for a regroup and we were off to an outlet mall. We need nothing. Could find nothing. Outlet Malls really are a ripoff. There was nothing that I couldn't buy online for less - from Jockey underwear to FoodSaver bags. We figured if the new stuff wasn't going to get us, maybe some old stuff would - we headed to an antique mall.

Antique malls are my kind of shopping. With no preconcieved ideas of what you're looking for, things just happen to catch your eye. And the first thing to catch my eye was some original Desert Rose china.

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My grandmother had some of this when I was a kid and I thought it would be fun to have. This is the real stuff made in California - not the faux-stuff now made in China. 4 dinner plates, 4 salad/dessert plates.

We found another Santa for the collection, a tulip bowl to hold bathroom stuff... and passed on a ceramic chandelier made in Italy. It almost - almost - came home with us.

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It would have been hell to keep clean.

The surprise of the trip, though was the restaurant where we had dinner Saturday night. The place is called What If... and it's in the basement of the Howard Johnson Inn where we stayed!

From an unpretentious motel lobby, one walks down a flight of steps into another world! I was really surprised. We had heard great things about the place and reviews online said not to let the outside looks sway you and to take a chance. We did. And my stomach was happy we did!

Victor started off with a Screaming OJ Martini. Vodka, prosecco, fresh orange juice, and peach schnapps. A dangerous drink, for sure.

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Appetizers were Fried Calamari with Thai and Marinara Sauces and the Black Bean Margarita. It had black beans, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream. It was really good. the calamari was perfectly fried and the sauces were excellent.

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We both had salads with Blueberry Pomegranate Vinaigrette. Excellent, although I think I would have made the vinaigrette a bit more tart. Personal preference. It was excellent the way it was.

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Then it was time for the main courses. Victor went for the Lobster Ravoli - Lobster-stuffed Ravioli with a Mimosa Sauce and Parmesan. Rich without being overpowering.

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I went for the Veal Frangelico - Veal Cutlets with Mango, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, and a Frangelico Sauce. This had a lot of textures and flavors going on - including a smokiness that I think came from the breading on the veal. Not a bad choice!

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We were stuffed. But that didn't stop us from getting the Dessert Sampler! Turtle Brownies, Chocolate Decadence Cake with Raspberry Coulis, Titamisu, Chocolate Mousse, and an Oreo Cream Pie.

Ridiculously Good! Our server, Jenny, was charming, knowledgeable, and just fun, good people.

If you're ever in Hershey - don't judge a book by it's cover...

What If...
845 East Chocolate Avenue
Hershey, PA 17033

 

 

 

 

 


About Us

Hi there!  My name is  Tim and this is what I do in my spare time.  It's mostly me talking about what we had for dinner, but it's also a fun place to gather a recipe or two and glimpse a picture of that dinner, too.

My husband of 20+ years, Victor, and I cook at home almost every night of the week.  We both love food, love to eat, and have a great time in the kitchen together.

We used to share our dinners - when the ingredients were appropriate - with our little girl, Cybil Shepherd.  She was a border collie/german shepherd mix who adopted us from the Chester County SPCA in 2003 when she was about a year old. Cybil left us in January 2015, and our new little girl, Blanche, is not as fortunate. She's a full-blood german shepherd mix who is going to maintain her weight. It's dog food for her.

And we now share our meals with Victor's mother. We have moved Nonna in with us because she's getting old and it's just what ya do.

I've been involved in the food business for nigh on 53 years and still manage to enjoy it most of the time!

I started out in a small donut and pastry shop in San Francisco, circa 1961. I was a little kid with a Saturday morning job washing sheet pans for the baker. In the ensuing years, I cooked and baked in Uncle Sam's Yacht Club on the USS Ranger and at bases in San Diego. I also worked in restaurants all over San Francisco and Lake Tahoe's North Shore (with a brief stint in Portland, OR) before leaving the professional cooking end of things and getting into hotel F& B management.

I spent close to 14 years in the hotel business, opening hotels all over the USofA, returned home to San Francisco in 1989 where I got into health care - first at SFGH, and then at UCSF. I moved to a small hospital in San Leandro, CA for a couple of years as Director of Nutrition Services before we moved to Pennsylvania, in 2001.

Victor owned his own restaurant in Philadelphia's South Street, spent several years in Atlantic City hotels, and, after moving to San Francisco with me, got into the travel industry. He's also an accomplished cook, leaning heavily on his Italian heritage to create fabulous meals.  His Monday Pasta Night is out of this world.

There are now eight cook books and/or recipe collections on the site as well as the blog.  It's a labor of love.  No ads except for the occasional political stuff since I'm a left-leaning liberal - but no click here and save stuff.  Just fun recipes from some pretty fun family and friends.

Life is good.


Birthday on the Boardwak

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I think the last time we were at the Jersey Shore was a couple of years before Hurricane Sandy. Our vacations have either been Europe or West Coast - either of which is generally less expensive than renting a house at the shore for a week. I like going down to the ocean, but my Irish complexion is just not conducive to sitting on the beach hours at a time. I've had some pretty horrendous sunburns in my 63 years - I don't plan on ever having another.

So... when Victor asked if I wanted to head to Atlantic City for a few days for my birthday, I jumped at it! Walking the boards, eating salt water taffy, and pulling a few slots sounded like a lot of fun - and there's plenty to do besides sitting in the sand. The second thing I said after saying a resounding YES was we needed to drive home on the Black Horse Pike and hit some Farm Stands.

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New Jersey is called The Garden State for a reason. The produce coming out of South Jersey is pretty spectacular and the Black Horse Pike runs through what was once some pretty intensive farming. Much of it has been sold off for shopping malls and sub-divisions, but there's still farmers out there growing some awesome stuff.

The farm stands - numerous even in the '90s when we would come back to visit family - have dwindled to a small handful. But what they lack in number they more than make up for in price and quality. We stopped at one quiet roadside stand and spent 30 minutes talking with the woman who ran the place. She was apologizing for not having things but giving a rundown of when different things would be coming in and lamenting the finicky customers who want perfect-looking produce over stuff that actually tastes good. We had a great time sharing stories and cooking ideas and tips.

We bought raw, unheated, unfiltered local honey.

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And tomatoes, corn, blueberries, blackberries, potatoes, lots of hot peppers, plums, blackberry jelly, fig preserves, melons... And spent less than $30 for everything.

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We could have easily brought home more, but reality struck. We need to be able to eat this stuff up in just a couple of days. It's fresh!

Hammonton - where Victor's cousin lives and his mom used to live - is the Blueberry Capital of the east and the blueberries are outstanding.

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We bought a couple of pints and the minute we got home Victor made a huge fruit salad and a tomato salad.  I fried peppers and we had them on top of pork chops for dinner - along with tomato salad. Nonna absolutely loves tomato salad and Jersey tomatoes are her favorite - after the ones we get out of the yard.

Speaking of yard... they're not producing as we had hoped so we may be heading back down towards the end of the tomato season and pick up a bushel of tomatoes and make sauce for canning. It would be fun.

In the meantime... we're enjoying the few things we did get and contemplating another trek down September 26th for the Miss'd America Pageant. We saw the reigning Miss'd America - Honey Davenport and her first two runners-up, Holly Dae and Fifi DuBois on the boardwalk for a fun show and I'd love to see the whole pageant.

It was a great birthday, indeed...

 

 


Marriage Equality and French Champagne

 

At 10 o'clock this morning, I really really wanted to call my mother. She would have been so happy. Very honestly really happy.

I remember the day 40-whatever years ago when I told her I was gay. She cried. Not because I was gay, but because she knew what a rough life I was going to have - and she feared I would be alone. I lived all over the USofA chasing rainbows of one sort or another but true love always eluded me. I hid the rough spots over the years, but she always hoped I would settle down.

And then I - and she - met Victor. It was love at first sight.

She adored him and knew from Day One that I had finally met my life-mate. She was a proud mama and so happy that her little boy had finally found the happiness she had always hoped and prayed for.

She died way too soon, but she left us knowing we were happy.

And today, I just wanted to call her and say We Did It!  Legal everywhere! She would have beamed with pride.

What a difference from that little boy 50 years ago - several lifetimes ago - who at 13 actually thought about killing himself. I knew I was different, I thought something was wrong with me. I kinda knew what it was, but it was something I had to keep secreted in the deepest depths of my being. The love that dare not speak its name...

It was a very frightening time. I think it's one of the reasons I'm very publicly out today. I want other 13 year old kids to see a [reasonably] well-adjusted adult gay male out there and just kinda pass on the "it's okay" message.

When I told my father I was gay, his reply was "I know. I was wondering how long it would be before you finally mentioned it."

And then I CAME OUT. In a blaze of Rainbow Glory. I was so out my brother finally told me he liked me better when I was in the closet. I got the message and toned things down a bit. It was such a relief, though, not to have to hide. Of course, it opened up a whole new can of worms... I got to experience fear - not of being found out - but of getting my ass kicked for being in the wrong place or coming out of the wrong bar. And then there was the hotel GM who told me I wasn't going any further up the Corporate Ladder because I didn't have - emphasis his - a wife.

So many years of open and blatant discrimination. So many years of being called a sodomite and a sinner, that I was going to hell. Laws enacted to deny me my basic human rights.

Hell - I couldn't even get out of the draft by saying I was gay. In those pre-Don't Ask Don't Tell days, I would have been inducted, and then dishonorably discharged. With a probably prison sentence. Really. I lied like hell and then hoped to hell no one found out.

When we moved back here from California in 2001, I - naturally - had to quit my job. California denied me unemployment because we weren't married. I filed an appeal and a judge wrote a scathing opinion denouncing California, stating that we had done everything we legally could to validate our relationship and they couldn't deny my unemployment based on a legality they refused to give me. It was great.

When California finally enacted Marriage Equality we finally decided to get married at home in San Francisco in 2008. The wedding was planned for November 23rd. Prop 8 passed on November 8th. So much for our non-wedding.

We were finally married in October 2010 by a dear friend in New Hampshire. And then parts of DoMA were repealed. In May 2014 - while we were in Sicily - Pennsylvania recognized our New Hampshire marriage.

And today, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court announced we are married. Period.

What a long, strange trip it has been. I don't think that little boy 50 years ago ever dreamed this day would come.

Hell - in 1995, Victor and I marched as honor guards in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade for Hawai'i defendants Ninia Baehr and Genora Dancel - two of the women who sued Hawai'i for the right to marry and really started the firestorm. I didn't think we had a snowballs chance in hell of ever seeing marriage equality in our lifetimes.

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The champagne came back with us from Paris about 10 years ago. It's been sitting in the 'fridge waiting the right moment to come out, so to speak. Today seemed like the perfect day to drink champagne and spread some cheer.

So cent’ anni - a hundred years!

Oh... and that 10 year old champagne was outstanding!  We need to go back and get another bottle!

 


Gnocchi and a New Grill

 

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On Monday, I finally decided to get serious about fixing our gas grill. It was rusted through the bottom, burners were rusted, I needed to light it with matches... It was a mess. It had been a mess for a couple of years, but I just kept putting off fixing it. So... I went to the website and started pricing replacement parts.

As I was scanning through the list, I realized I needed way more parts than was practical. Time to get a new grill. I went on to Amazon Smile and yesterday our new grill was delivered. In a really big box. Assembly required.

Assembly doesn't bother me, but instructions without words - just pictures - are not my forte. They generally just don't make sense to me. Icons, in general, don't make sense to me. What can I say?!?

I had planned to put it together tomorrow, but I got to leave work early, today. I came home, baked a loaf of bread, and set out to conquer Mr Char-Broil.

Victor - very wisely - planned a dinner that did not require a grill. He knows me. Well.

I actually did pretty well. I only made one screw-up - misreading the two front panels for a brace I couldn't find necessitating some awkward screwing after the fact - but it was all done in 2 hours. No cursing, crying, temper-tantrums, or smashed fingers.

Meanwhile, Victor was in the kitchen making ricotta gnocchi.

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OMG! Talk about light-as-a-feather gnocchi! These may be his best one's yet - and every time he makes them they're great!

Ricotta Gnocchi

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Combine the ricotta, Parmesan, olive oil, eggs and 1 teaspoon salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour in 3 parts, stirring with a rubber spatula. It will be a loose dough.

Bring the dough together in a ball and cut off one-quarter of it. Dust the work surface with all-purpose flour to prevent sticking, and roll the cut-off piece of dough into a long rope about 5/8 inch in diameter. Cut the rope into 5/8-inch pieces. Dust some parchment paper with flour and place the gnocchi on it to prevent sticking. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Cook the gnocchi in boiling water for 2 minutes.

Drain and serve with your favorite sauce.

Our favorite sauce is anything Victor makes.  Fortunately, we have plenty in the house.

Fresh bread, homemade pasta, off work early on a beautiful Spring day, and a new grill.

Life definitely doesn't suck around here!

And tomorrow?!? Time to break that baby in!

Oh... and yes, that is a mosaic picture of San Francisco on our wall outside. It was made by my great Aunt Dolores in the early '60s. It's pretty cool.


San Francisco

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How many times have I driven under that sign? Ya need to stay middle-left lanes because the road splits - three lanes right to 280 Downtown and three lanes straight onto any number of city streets or around Lake Merced to take me out to the ocean and the Ancestral Home. In the past 14 years I haven't driven it nearly enough - but I still know which lane to be in when I need to be in it...

San Francisco. Home. What a great place. And what a total and complete blast it is when all my siblings, spouses, nieces, nephews, in-laws, out-laws, and significant others get together.

Raucous doesn't begin to describe it.

We got out of Philadelphia between ice and snow storms and landed in 70°+ sunshine and blue skies. California is having one hellava drought. I didn't seem to mind all that much. What weather! And what fun. We headed over to my brother's house, unpacked, and started eating. Eating and San Francisco are pretty synonymous. We waited for my sister and her brood to arrive and headed around the corner to a great neighborhood restaurant - The Parkside Tavern. When I was a kid it was a bar called The Lost Weekend and the place had a pipe organ with the organist sitting up in a corner over the bar. Slightly-inebriated sing-alongs were quite common and my parents and my dad's cousin would stop in now and again and Cousin Don would almost always end up playing the organ at some point. It's changed, a bit. For the better, I might add! Great food and a lot of fun.

It was reasonably early to bed and then up for a free-for-all breakfast down at the Millbrae Pancake House.  For six siblings with sundry offspring, it's the perfect place. Big tables and great food and service.

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This is part of one table. And we tipped really - really - well.

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This is Grandma Judy and Granddaughter Gloria.

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And Mason. He's no longer the youngest great... Nya arrived January 30th. But more on her, later... This was Saturday morning-ish. We were laying the caloric groundwork for dinner later at The Old Clam House where Grandma Judy works.

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The Old Clam House has been in the same location in the same building since 1861. Abe Lincoln was President. And the food is excellent. The drinks are pretty damned good, as well.

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Of course we all had to congregate at the bar while waiting for everyone to arrive...

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Cameras were everywhere, because... well... we like taking pictures.

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Having fun talking with the nieces and nephews and finding out what's new. How the hell did little Michael become 31 years old? And baby Nicole is 29. As my father would often say, they were no bigger than a popcorn fart. Pop's off-color and irreverent sayings are legendary - and they really do explain a lot...

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Here's little Katie with her intended, Ben, and Brandon is going to be the newest official member of the family when he and niece Megan marry in August. Great kids and great additions to the family.

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And no party is complete without the twinnies... Arlene and Eileen are numbers 4 and 5.

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46 of us had dinner and we took over our own room in the restaurant. Loud and Raucous. I did mention we are Loud and Raucous, didn't I?

And since this is supposed to be a food blog, here's my dinner... Dungeness Crab Enchiladas...

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I can't even begin to tell you how awesome they were. We gorged for what seemed like hours and then started thinking about Super Bowl Food.

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My brother bought three whole briskets at Guerra's on 15th & Taraval. Some of the best meat in the city... He slow-cooked them for about 12 hours. They made some awesome sandwiches... There were also...

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Taco Dips and...

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Jalapeño Poppers, and...

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Olive and Cheese Toasts, and... Maggie's Dip that I didn't get a picture of but it was damned good!!

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Mike getting the brisket together. Then, there was just general tomfoolery...

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And lots of alcohol...

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Not that anyone needs alcohol to be loud...

Just before kick-off, we stopped to celebrate Maddie's 7th Birthday. Seven... Where does the time go?!?

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The babies are all having babies. And the babies are growing up, too! We had a great time watching the game. There were 2 Seattle fans in a roomful of New England fans... Did I mention loud and raucous?!?

And speaking of babies... I told you about our niece, Nya... Here she is... all 4 days old of herself! First with Great-Uncle Tim...

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And then with Great-Uncle Victor...

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She is totally adorable. Momma Julia is totally together, totally relaxed, and completely comfortable in her role as a new mommie. It really does help being a part of a large family. You learn early on that they don't break.

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She is just too cute for words!

From visiting babies, we went off to visit the City...

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First stop was the ocean. This is about three blocks from where I grew up. I spent a lot of time down here in my youth... a lot of it was doing juvenile delinquent-type stuff like smoking and drinking and other illicit stuff, but, somehow we all survived. And we sure as hell had fun!

Next up was Lands End and the old Sutros.

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The weather could not have been more perfect. There's a new Information Center and Gift Shop up there that opened a couple of years ago. We bought lots of stuff. And then we headed up to the Place of the Legion of Honor. Once upon a time, Point Lobos ran from Lands End to the Palace of the Legion of Honor and then down into the Presidio and to the Golden Gate Bridge. An earthquake in 1957 closed the road. It's now called "The Earthquake Walk." Or the land of the whispering bushes... We took city streets up the hill to Lincoln Park. 01-31-15-sf-12

Great views of the Golden Gate and of the bridge. We followed the road down into the Presidio and over to the Palace of Fine Arts.

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This is one of the coolest buildings in San Francisco. Most folks think it's left over from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. It's actually a replica. The original was built of lathe and stucco as a temporary building. For whatever reason, this one building stayed while everything else was torn down and housing built. By the 1950's it had fallen into complete disrepair, and was fenced off. Finally, in 1965 or so, molds were taken of the original buildings and it was recreated in concrete - built to last.

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It's something totally unique in a totally unique city.

And then there was even more uniqueness... Keith Haring at the deYoung Museum.

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I've always been a fan of Keith Haring and knew he was a prolific artist. I really had no idea just how prolific he was! The show was much of his political work.

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Some of his paintings are just so bizarre, I have to wonder what in the hell was going through his mind when he was creating them. Others are just simple executions of very strong statements.

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Definitely a genius.

 

From the deYoung, we headed across the grass to the new  California Academy of Sciences. This is one cool place that really brings back the memories. It's been completely rebuilt and is now a serious state of the art exhibition. Many many moons ago, my ex-sister-in-law's father was the Chief Engineer at Steinhart Aquarium and I got to spend a lot of time behind the scenes where the tanks, offices, and plumbing were. It was held together with duct tape and baling wire. The voters finally passed a bond issue to rebuild. And the rebuilt it right. My nephew Michael was a plumber on the job.

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There are still remnants of the original structure and they worked older elements into the new design - like the alligator fence around the alligator pit. Back in the day, people threw coins at them to see if they would get them to move. We're a bit more enlightened, today. No throwing of anything - and in many places, no photography. They've discovered issues with newer cameras, iPhones and the like and how they transmit signals to the animals. Fascinating stuff.

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Of course, we needed to get out and eat more, so we stopped off at Ike's Place where my niece, Jennifer works.

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Totally awesome sandwiches. As in - totally awesome. There was a line out the door when we got there and they moved them like you wouldn't believe. Great food.

Great food. We had lots and lots of great food. But what we really had, was a great time with great family. It's rather amazing that there are six of us and we actually like one another and have fun with one another. The kids all get along and have fun with one another. The babies have 30 parents. Most excellent.

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So what else did we do in my City-By-The-Bay?!? We bought t-shirts. In fact, we bought 14 t-shirts. One-Four. We needed them. And lots of See's candy. We needed it, too. And when we got home we culled 22 from the collection. That means we need 8 more.

We'll see what we can do about that when we hit Portland in August for Megan and Brandon's wedding...

What fun.....

 

 


Mom's Cook Books

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We're heading off to San Francisco on Friday. I had rather hoped to have my cook book project finished before we went, but it ain't gonna happen.

When my mom gave me her cook books 20-whatever years ago, I scanned them and made copies for the siblings. When I started the recipe website, it was one of the first things that went online. It's a great resource and I have a lot of fun going through the recipes and finding strange concoctions from years past. Only problem has been it's not searchable. The pages are all .jpg's with numerous recipes on them. The best I've been able to do is separate the recipes by category and then link the recipe title to the corresponding page.  Not very user-friendly because you need to scroll through the complete recipe index to find something, click on it, and then find it on the page.

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So... I've been busy cutting every recipe and making it its own .jpg and putting it on its own page, and tagging each page so - one day - they'll be better-organized and searchable.

There's only a bit over a thousand recipes...

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While it is definitely taking a lot of time, I must admit it's been a blast rolling down Memory Lane! I've been getting great ideas for future meals, ideas for work, and even found the perfect recipe for sister-in-law Joanna's birthday last week!

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But... a month after I started, I'm barely a third of the way through creating the pages... I'm making progress, but... not nearly fast enough to suit me. Patience is not one of my more readily-accessible virtues, so I'll dig deep and try to keep it all in perspective. Mom didn't collect them all overnight. I'm not going to get them all redone overnight.

The cover design was created by my father, the fireman. An artist, he was not, but he was a damned good cook in his own right. His veal cutlets with dirty potatoes were legendary, and his eggs fried in bacon grease until the edges were crispy... gastronomic heaven on earth.

Hopefully, the books will be completed by Easter... And y'all will be the first to know when it's done!

In the meantime, click on the link above and see what sort of things are in there... Dinner is only a click away!